A Travellerspoint blog

Bogotá, Colombia - May 23, 2013

From Kasilof, Alaska - July 7, 2013

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I stayed in the old section of Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, in an area called La Candeleria. The Anandamayi Hostel is one of the nicest of my trip. Manicured plants filled courtyards surrounded my hammocks, Eastern art decorated the walls, and the beds were handmade. Even the showers were hand tiled.

Blocks from my hostel lies the main plaza of the city, Plaza de Bolivar, bordered by the Palace of Justice, National Capitol, seat of the National Congress, the Mayor's residence, and Primary Cathedral of Bogotá.

In 1985, 35 political militants from a group called M-19 took control of the Palace of Justice. They demanded a trial against the President, who may have been elected fraudulently. Three hundred people were taken hostage. On the second day, the army stormed the building. One hundred people died, including half of the Supreme Court.

Fifty-thousand people were murdered in Colombia in 1991 and 1992. In 1993, Pablo Escobar, the most powerful drug lord in Colombia, was killed in Medellín. His death lead to a fracturing of power in the cartels.

I speak of this recent violence in Colombia because the country has changed. The country feels fresh, especially Medellín, there is public art, people are kind and focused and present. I do not know if these impressions are my subjective bias, but I would imagine living through extreme violence would effect a person somehow.

I took a bike tour with a new friend from Massachusetts. It rained the entire time.

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Posted by cazvan 17:13 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Medellin, Colombia - May 17, 2013

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Botero is one of Colombia's most famous painters and sculptors. He favors what he calls "volume" in his work. He is still alive and donated most of his art work and private collection to museums in Colombia.

Medellin is warm and welcoming. I immediately felt like I could live here for at least 6 months. The city has had a rough history. It was the headquarters for Pablo Escobar, the drug kingpin that seems to be largely responsible for Colombia's violent and drug riddled reputation. But he is dead, and Medellin feels fresh and lively. There is an excellent metro and metrocable system, lots of public art (buildings were made to contribute a portion of their budget to artwork) and good weather.

I took salsa classes with a tiny woman named Paula. I more lessons scheduled for my last day in the city, but Paula did not appear.

The first picture is a cup of salted mango for $1. Delicious.

Posted by cazvan 11:21 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Playa Blanca, Cartagena, Colombia - May 15, 2013

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Return boat trip from Isla Grande to Cartagena, with a three hour stop at Playa Blanca. Beautiful beach, too many people. I found a nice cove at the south end of the beach past some rocks and hung out with the crabs.

The boat I caught from Isla Grande was a hotel tourist boat. The people screamed at every wave and every splash in their bright yellow life jackets. I made friends with a lady from Chile. It was good fun.

Posted by cazvan 10:01 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Isla Grande, Colombia - May 14, 2013

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A two hour boat ride to Isla Grande and La Casa de Carlos, a "hostel" on the 700 person island (the size of Kasilof). The smell of red snapper cooking over his fire greeted me and my two Chilean friends. After lunch, we took a swim and a canoe ride through the mangroves to the village. At the village, we had pizza. We returned by canoe through the mangroves at night. The phytoplankton in the water glowed blue at any disturbance. Imagine a meter square of thousands of blue LED lights at every stroke of the paddle. I spent the ride tapping my paddle on the mangrove roots, agitating the the water and igniting the plankton.

The next day, snorkeling on the coral reef on the other side of the island. My first time. Watching fish, crabs, and a color and texture changing octopus.

Carlos has been living on the Island for 15 years. He is a painter and guide. I took a hotel chartered boat back to Cartagena the next day.

Posted by cazvan 09:46 Archived in Colombia Comments (2)

Cartagena, Colombia - May 13, 2013

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Cartagena, Colombia. The Heroic City. Built to house Spanish treasure extracted from inland native civilizations. Looted by pirates (inc. English privateer Francis Drake). A wall was built around the city, a fort too. The fort worked, it was never taken.

Caribbean culture. Fruit, chicken, seafood. Sunshine, hot weather, beaches, waves, and palm trees. Sweating all the time.

Posted by cazvan 08:26 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

A Guide to Crossing Ecuador, from Lima, to Popayan, Colombia

A Guide to Crossing Peru/Ecuador/Colombia borders safely and easily. May 12, 2013

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Left Lima, Peru, May 9 - Oltursa Bus Company, 4:30pm (115 soles)

Arrived Tumbes, Peru May 10, 2pm
Border crossing- collectivo (2 soles) to migrations, walked to Ecuador through hectic Tumbes

Took a taxi to Ecuadorian migrations (didn't need to go to Peruvian customs first, they check out out at the same place) and taxi back to CIFA bus terminal for US$7 (Ecuador uses USD$, but with their own coins)

CIFA bus to Tulcán, Ecuador, May 10, at 4pm for US$20

Arrived Tulcán May 11, at 11am (bad traffic in last hour)

Taxi from the station (US$3.50) then walked to Ecuadorian customs, crossed to Colombian customs, then took a collectivo from there to the terminal in Ipiales, Colombia (10min, 1000 Colombian pesos)

Left Ipiales on a Supertaxi Company 2pm bus for C$25,000 (really left at 2:30), supposed to be 8 hours to Popayan

Arrived Popayan 12:30am, May 12, 2013 - 80 hours since leaving Lima

Took taxi (C$4500) to Parklife Hostel

My friend Colombia accompanied me, which granted considerable ease to m passing. We played chess on iPad, and ate exotic fruit.

Today marks exactly two years of the "No Parking" blog.

Posted by cazvan 00:51 Archived in Colombia Comments (1)

Machu Picchu, Perú - April 24, 2013

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Machu Picchu. Estate of Pachavutec Inca. 1450. Cusco Region, Perú. The stonework uses no mortar and there are no spaces between the stones.

Sebastian the llama poses for a shot. Maaah.

Posted by cazvan 19:26 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Cusco, Perú - April 23, 2013

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The bus journey from La Paz, Bolivia, to Cusco, Peru, crossed Lake Tiitcaca.

Plaza de Armas, the main square of Cuzco.

My dear friend Alyssa from New York joined me for a week in Cuzco.

We ate guinea pig (called cuy), a regional delicacy. Imagine eating a rodent, it was similar to this. Like chicken, but with about 1/10 the meat.

Posted by cazvan 19:31 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

La Paz, Bolivia - April 21, 2013

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I shopped till I dropped (Bolivian textiles, yes), biked 62km of "the worlds deadliest road" (very safe), got a Visa (I was in Bolivia illegally for a week), and admired the chola fashionistas in their bowler hats.

Posted by cazvan 01:26 Archived in Bolivia Comments (1)

Potosí, Bolovia - April 17, 2013

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I took a late night bus from Uyuni to Potosí, Bolivia. Potosí has a unique place in Bolivian political development as it was once one of the richest cities in the world. Mining.

It is no longer quite so important, but mining is still a major part of the economy. I took a tour (Big Deal Tours, run by miners) of the primary mountain, and walked 3.2km of tunnels and ladders. It was cramped, dark and dusty, with most of the tunnels too low to stand up straight.

The miners have crafted idols to a deity they call "El Tío," or the uncle, who reigns in their underground world. They feed him coca leaves and grain alcohol, as he grants them riches and holds his erect phalus.

The miners live 10 years less than most people in the town, but make many times more than the average salary. Their cars, new and bright, are parked by the miners market in the town as a testament to their wealth.

Posted by cazvan 00:51 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni #2 - April 16, 2013

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On the final day of the journey, we crossed the salt. The night before we slept on the edge of the Salar (sal is salt in Spanish) in a hotel made entirely from the stuff.

It was like being on the ocean. As far as you could see. White, rough, flat. We spent time on a cacti covered island jutting from the plain, called the Eye of the Incas. We spent hours posing for photos, using perspective to create effects. The best photo was a group of people seemingly jumping off my tongue into space. We arrived in Uyuni, Bolivia, and Colombia and I made a quick move by bus to Potosí.

I liked our group, but I was reminded how being in a tiny space with strangers from very different backgrounds can be a trying experience.

Posted by cazvan 15:51 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

Salar de Uyuni #1 - April 14, 2013

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After four days in San Pedro, I decided to cross the Salar de Uyuni, a massive salt flat (9000sq km) and go to Bolivia. Colombia negotiated to hire a 4x4 and a guide for the four day journey. We paid 55,000 Chilean pesos each ($120), saving 38,000 pesos per person. There are benefits to traveling with a speaker of Spanish. The tour left from San Pedro the next day. After our last hot showers for a few days, we were ready to go.

It was amazing how vast and unpopulated this area of the world is. The incas uses a large valley here as a trade route, but this is a desolate place to be as a human otherwise. We passed green lakes, red lakes, volcanoes, steam vents, hot springs (a highlight). Starting today and for about the two weeks, my face and lips were always dry. A good portion of this journey was above 3000m, where there is a danger of altitude sickness. A British doctor we were traveling with was weak and threw up the entire first day. Only she of our party of eight or so became ill. We slept in isolated hosterias in the desert.

Posted by cazvan 15:46 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

San Pedro, Chile - April 11, 2013

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In San Pedro, we met a geology student from Colorado. Together we went sandboarding down massive dunes, sunset watching over lunar valleys, and biking to the saltiest lakes in the country. You float high in the lakes, and my shorts were as stiff as cardboard after they dried from the salt.

Posted by cazvan 17:06 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Atacama Desert, Chile

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I woke up the next morning at 5am hoping to catch a ride to Chile. Truck drivers stop in Susques at night after the border closes and leave early in the morning to cover the two hours to the next country.

Colombia and I stood by the road for 1.5 hours in the predawn cold, waiting for a ride. We wore all the clothes we had, but by I was still the most cold I have been. Finally, the sun rose over the hills. It felt like a huge, falling into a warm bed, like being dipped into something revitalizing and comforting. Shortly thereafter, Colombia found a trucker at a coffee shop who reluctantly offered to take us to San Pedro. We crossed 4000m passes, broken trucks, and herds of llama. It was a dry and broken country.

This man was making a run from the coast of Chile back to his own Paraguay, and tried to leave us at the border, in the middle of no where. Colombia convinced him otherwise and we arrived in touristic and welcoming San Pedro in the mid afternoon.

Posted by cazvan 16:51 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Susques, Jujuy, Argentina - April 9, 2013

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From Purmamarca, Jujuy, Northern Argentina, I decided to hitch hike across the western part of the Jujuy province to The Atacama desert is Chile. My friend and I (I will call her Colombia) left Purmamarca in the early afternoon with a truck driver bound for Susques, a few hours from the border. We thought we could make it to San Pedro, our destination in Chile, by nightfall. We were wrong. We became stranded in Susques, a tiny town on few maps.

"No problem right? We'll get a hotel an leave tomorrow morning"

All the hotels were fully booked for moths because a massive new mine had opened nearby and the workers needed housing. After hours of walking around the town, we finally found a hosteria with a room. This was rustic. The photos above shows the hosteria. My room was to the right. The ibject on the floor is the skin from a freshly butchered llama.

During the evening, I wanted water to make tea. I took my thermos to the hostess, who was butchering the rest of the llama inside. When I asked for hot water, she grabbed my thermos with blood covered hands. The thermos was returned half an hour later, so bloody it looked like a murder weapon.

Posted by cazvan 16:41 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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