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Saturday, March 10, 2018

Colombia, I Finally Made It

My dream of visiting Colombia finally came true in February 2018. I had planned on exploring on my own, but my PC friend, Chase, decided to come along. We left Ecuador via bus on Feb. 1st and traveled the length of Ecuador to the southern border of Colombia. We eventually traveled a total of 1500plus miles by bus to our final destination Cartegena, on the Caribbean Coast of Colombia. We remained friends through sickness (diarrhea, sunburn, achey hips, sand flea bites, swollen ankles), 8 hour at a time bus rides, miscommunication both in English and Spanish, cramped conditions and misrepresented lodgings. 

Chase was a perfect travel mate as was his brother Easton, who joined us in Cartegena.

Our first stop Las Lajas Sanctuary, outside of Ipiales

Colombia is a country of colorful buildings and clothes, flavors, families, and music. So much going on in the city squares and streets.

Chase having a beer in Cali
We only stayed here for one night, a little above our budget $20 each.

We went on a walking tour of Cali and when I commented on how many motorcycles were zig-zagging through the streets our guide told us about a law that apparently was enacted to combat the drive-by shootings that were so common in the heyday of the drug cartels. It is against the law for two men to ride on a motorcycle together, because the front guy was the operator and the guy in back carried the gun.

We embarked on a great day of tubing in San Cipriano.  To get to the river we rode on a La Brujita, pictured below that noisily jerks down a long stretch of tracks, metal wheels on metal track, through two tunnels and into the village of San Cipriano. This contraption carries about 8 people sitting side by side on slightly cushioned bench.

This is a nest made by a backpacker bird. That’s what our guide called it but I don’t know what the scientific name is.

Coffee country!

Screwing around at the Botanical Gardens and Aquarium outside Medillin.

One of my favorite days was our trip to Guatape and La Piedra

Yes I did walk up La Pierdra, with lots of water breaks and the promise of a beer at the top. 
Below is the colorful town of Guatape. Wonderful little shops there but I had to pass up buying the many items I wanted  because of my small suitcase.

So arepas are a common food in Colombia, but they vary from inland to coast. I prefer the stuffed coastal version to the flat flavorless version served in the inland cities and in many restaurants in Cartegena. But a delightful treat that we discovered as we got nearer the coast was coconut rice. I wondered that I had never thought to cook rice in coconut milk, but I for sure will make that a practice from now on. Boy was it ever tasty and I have a whole new attitude about rice now.

From Medillin we headed to the coast, lodging at Arboletes, Tolu, Cartegena, Santa Marta, Palomino.


Cartegena vagabonds. Man, it is exhausting being on vacation.

Santa Marta

So for our last night in Cartegena, we treated ourselves to a dinner cruise with wine, excellent cuisine, perfect weather, lights of the city. We would each of us be flying back to the USA in the morrow with fond memories of a month of adventure I will hold in my heart forever. I don’t know if I will ever meet such delightful young individuals as Chase and Easton. I am blessed!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter in Ecuador

I guess it’s time to start writing a few entries into my blog about my travels since leaving Guyana. I returned to my home state of Alaska, in July 2016. I had just completed my 27 month service in the Peace Corps. Kodiak Island is one of the most beautiful places on this earth, and I feel that the food served on my table and the table of my friends is the best you could ever eat in terms of freshness, wild game and fish availability, and variety offered. I savored every meal I ate for those 4 1/2 months in Kodiak.
 But then the weather started to chill, in fact I never got warm coming from a hot steamy tropical climate such as Guyana, to a cool, breezy, often drizzly Kodiak. So I’m off again, This time traveling around Ecuador.

I started out in Quito, a quaint and totally Ecuadorian experience. Cuenca was also a mountain city but subtle differences from the capital. Both charming experiences and of course every place I travel to in Ecuador has it’s charm depending on who I am with and what am I doing. One night in Guyana, I sat with friends at a roadside restaurant and proclaimed my love for Guyana. They literally died laughing because it was noisy traffic passing by, the same garbage in the street, blaring music. But I was in lust and so the place grabbed me and made me feel so many things.

So too in Ecuador, the people make each place. They are so open to conversing in Spanish with English as 1st language idiots. They are so accepting. And so many interesting people cross my path, some immediately feeling like friends, and others that are just there. Some Ecuadorians, and some foreigners from all over the damn place: Germany, Switzerland, France, Sri Lanka, the US, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, the UK, Canada, Uruguay, Colombia, Puerto Rico. 
  • Street in Quito

City of Quito

People of Quito

Street in Cuenca

lunch in Cuenca
Earthquake damage in Canoa

Ayampe resident
San Alejo resident
Looks Ecuadorian! Yes?

treats galore
Christmas in Cottages by the Sea

Cottages by the Sea
Murals everywhere

Hanging a net in Canoa
Puerto Lopez
A whale of a tail

One day visit with my sister Charlene in Quito

For the last month or more I’ve been exploring the lovely beaches of Ecuador: Manta, Ayampe, Puerto Lopez, San Alejo, Bahia de Caraquez, and presently Canoa. Bahia and Canoa were hit pretty hard by last April’s earthquake and are still rebuilding. Many residents still live in tents, but construction is on going and new homes are visible throughout these towns. The sentiment here that I’ve seen displayed in publications is “Tourists don’t give up on Ecuador, the communities need your dollars!” 

Now I am sweating every day and the equatorial sun is burning all my white areas. I walk to the beach every evening at 6:00 to watch the sunset and drink my proverbial cocktail. I study Spanish using 4 online programs most mornings and then I mingle with the people and try to understand what they are saying to me. I spent a couple of days with a young couple from Chile who told me even they have a hard time understanding Ecuadorians, because the pronunciation is different than Chilean Spanish and the Ecuadorians have words for things that they do not use anywhere else in South America. So good luck to me.