A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Ford and Bates

No more blog until we get home :-(

So, unfortunately the computer has totally died now. I managed to drop it on the floor in Sao Paulo (very annoyed with myself) and it is not recognising the hard drive! So all updates will have to be done once we are home as no way of uploading any pictures. Very annoyed as I was getting everything edited and adding photos to make sure everything was up before we were home.
It will just make great reading when we are back!

Posted by Ford and Bates 18:08 Comments (0)

The rest of Ecuador......

View South America on Ford and Bates's travel map.

Not many pictures for this section as we were both ill and just trying to recoup. Also computer died at this point so stopped us updating and blogging as much as we wanted........

Day 100 Tuesday 11.6.13- Day 103 Friday 14.6.13
So we are up early for our rafting. It seemed like a good idea when we arrived last night. The weather is not that hot so not sure what it will be like. There are 3 others, Tyler and Cassidy from Toronto and Suzan from Quebec. Canadian front! We drive about an hour out of Banos, amazing scenery, surrounded by mountains and waterfalls. We didn’t see last night when we arrived as it was dark.

We arrive by the side of the river there is nothing there. We wait another 10 mins for a guy to turn up with the raft and all the equipment. We change into our wet suits and get kitted up. Learning the basic moves and commands.
"kitted up"

"kitted up"

"the raft"

"the raft"

We apprehensively assume our positions in the boat. Laurence is at the front with Tyler, I am behind him next to Suzan and Cassidy and the guide are at the back. The water is freezing. Our guide takes pictures as we frantically paddle at his every word. The river is moving really fast and we are meant to be 2 hours, however it is going to take about 45 mins due to the speed. There are some points were we nearly tip over, I am determined not to go in. We go over a huge wave and Laurence at the front falls in, he grabs Tyler’s paddle and takes that with him. The first thing our guide told us was don’t drop your paddle that will be rescued first. So we all scrabble to get the paddle and then pull Laurence back in once all paddles are safe. He has survived the ordeal, but now I am even more determined not to go in! After a few close calls and our guide trying his best to tip the boat we see the van that brought us. We head into shore. We then go for a nice lunch- typical meat, rice, veg. Then head back to town. The drive is about twice as long as the way there, we must have gone a long way down that river! (We have a CD of pictures the guide took, never seen, but am sure they will be very funny)

Ecuador are Playing Argentina at 4pm so we arrange to meet Tyler, Cassidy and Suzan for drinks to watch the football. We find somewhere to watch it, it is a good match but ends up 1-1. Ecuador deserved to win. We then go to get some food and go to a microbrewery that brews its own beers. Nice :-)
We head back to the hostel It is only 8pm so go up stairs to the communal area to do some e-mailing. We decided to do another Dragoman trip as we had such a good time on the first one and Katie has sorted us out a discount- Happy dayz. We book Lima to La Paz. At least we now have a vague plan, need to be in Lima for 30th June, better get moving!
In the communal area there is a crazy Justin Beiber fan, who is trying to convince the rest of the hostel how talented he is!!! I can’t work out if he is being serious or not, but we keep quiet and just hear his crazy theories, he even has a tattoo of 'I am a beiber' - weird!

Day 101- Wednesday 12.6.13
We have our first lie in in ages, it is much needed, we are having a chill day today. Part of us feels we should be doing an activity as Banos is huge for things to do, but we need a break.
We decide to stay another night in Banos, so book that with the hostel and then head out to the supermarket and pharmacy to stock up and wander round Banos town.
We Skype my mum, which is great on the new computer. It is good to see her and chat.
We then have a lazy afternoon and chill out in the communal area. Loll meets a guy called Jake, from San Francisco who invites him to play chess.
We then head out to dinner.

Day 102- Thursday 13.6.13
Loll has woken up not feeling very well today, so we have another lazy day. I have been catching up on the blog and trying to sort out Riobamba which is where we are going to tomorrow, but cannot find any availability- not sure what we are going to do!?!
All of Colombia is nearly ready for positing so it has been productive but I am a bit blogged out now- and it is still not up to date (updating photos takes ages).
As we are using the Wifi in communal areas Jake appears and we have a nice evening chatting with him and a guy Andy who is from the UK.
A nice chilled evening.

Day 103- Friday 14.6.13
Banos/ Riobamba
Half way :-( can't believe it!
We still have no accommodation booked for tonight. Only one company has e-mailed back so unsure of our plans. We have chosen this hotel near the train station as we want to get the train, but have heard nothing from them. We ask reception if they can call them but they tell us they don't do reservations and you just turn up! Well after 3 months this doesn't seem as scary as previously. Before we always said we would have the next place booked before we arrive! Oh well lets see.
So we head to the bus station with Jake who is going to Quito. We find our bus to Riobamba, luckily only about 15 min wait. We have a 2 hour bus and find the hostel. There is loads of space so get a room no problem.
We chill in Riobamba for the day. Loll is not feeling too great still so find some food and head back to hostel for early night.

Day 104- Saturday 15.6.13
We speak to the lady in the hostel about the train, we have been reading that you can get the train from here to Aulsi and then travel through the Andes on a section of the train. It transpires that the line between Riobamba and Aulsi does not run now. You need to get a bus there and then get the train for about an hour. Oh dear! What to do? Loll is not feeling good today either (spending all day in bed).
We skype Loll's family but unfortunately the computer decides to die half way through, so we do a call from Lolls phone, great to chat. We were uploading photos from the camera to Dropbox over night and it crashed, now it is not working at all!!! Loll is on fix it mission to try and get it running!!! But nothing seems to be working, a lot of blue screens of death :-(

Day 105- Sunday 16.6.13
Riobamba/ Cuenca
We have decided to miss the train as Loll is still not brilliant and I have started feeling a bit dodgy today. So we just get a bus all the way to Cuenca. 6 hours nil by mouth. There is a toilet on the bus but everyone seems to prefer to go by the side of the road!
Amazing scenery clouds in the valley.
We see Lots of traditional dress and go through a number of small villages. Great to see. At one bus station we stop at there are baggage handlers trying to get a sheep into the luggage storage under the coach. Not our bus, but crazy, we left before I could see if they were successful or not. The sheep didn't look too happy about it.
Then for the last couple of hours they showed Contraband the film with Marc Walberg. Amazing how much of a film you can understand without knowing much Spanish!
Arrive in Cuenca as it is Sunday it is a struggle to find somewhere to eat. Get some food and head back to hostel. Cuenca has a really nice feel to it. Very quaint, cobbled streets, old colonial buildings, our hostel is in a huge old house. What a charming city.

Day 106- Monday 17.6.13
I have now taken a turn for the worst:-( Loll is feeling better but I feel awful. Have breakfast and sleep. Loll continues with his mission on the computer. A very quite day.
Find dinner and back to hostel.

Day 107- Tuesday 18.6.13
We decide to stay another night in Cuenca as I do not feel up to traveling today. We have to change our room which is OK as the other room is booked, we have a 2 person dorm on bunk beds. We go for a wander round town and lunch, but not up to much. More sleeping and computer fixing! We spend a very frustrating few hours in an internet shop, so we can download windows on to a memory stick (this is the second one we have been in as the first one was quoting about 15 hours to complete due to so slow internet speed), as Loll needs to re-install the operating system, just keeps getting blue screens of death. All just because we were uploading pictures to Dropbox!
It is a real shame we have not felt better in Cuenca, as it seems like a great place. We could have done a few activities close by. But we need to head south to get to Lima so feeling a bit pressured by our schedule.

Day 108- Wednesday 19.6.13
Cuenca/ Loja
I am still feeling pretty unwell this morning but we decide to continue south. Instead of public bus we get a private bus which our hostel has recommended. An interesting driver, who seems to drive everywhere apart from the right side of the road! We arrive in one piece. But I am feeling distinctly poorly and feel like I am burning up with a temperature.
However, Amazing scenery along the way again.
We find our hostel which is very basic. $6 a night! Bargain! And head to the bus station to buy our tickets across the boarder. We have chosen this crossing as it is meant to be easier than the coastal one, and you can get a bus across which waits for you and takes you all the way to Puira.
We get some food, in a little cafe. One of the nicest sandwiches I have had a change from the toasted cheese, it is a vegetal sandwich cheese, egg lettuce and tomato. It doesn't take much to please. Wander round the town for a while get supplies and dinner and an early night as early start tomorrow.
It has a nice feel to it Loja. Have seen some lovely towns in Ecuador and had a great time here. But ready for Country number 5 tomorrow!

Posted by Ford and Bates 16:14 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

Nikki and Andy :-)

View South America on Ford and Bates's travel map.

Apologies all for the delay in posting- internet has been so on and off throughout Peru and Bolivia..... but will be worth the wait :-) More pics as Brazil internet is great.

Hooray Nikki and Andy arrive.......

Day 88- Thursday 30.5.13
Bogota/ Cali/ Quito
Pack Up and head to the airport. We have connection in Cali as no LAN flight seems to fly direct to Quito. All OK, check in, go through security. We check our bags all the way through.
We head to the gate and then sit there for over an hour as there is no plane docked for us to board. Over an hour later we finally start boarding; luckily we have a lot of time in Cali so our connection should not be a problem. We then get to Cali and look for the connection lane, but we are going from domestic to international so we have to come all the way out of the airport and find the LAN desk to make sure our bags are OK and to change our seats. It all gets a bit confusing. We are at the desk and the lady is saying something we don’t understand in Spanish. She sends us over to the check in desk, where a guy in the queue tries to help us as he speaks a little English, it then transpires that we have to go and pay tax, so we go over to the desk and the lady just stamps a bit of paper and tells us to go back to the original lady we were talking to. All very confusing but gets sorted in the end and our bags are OK as they have been checked through.
Buy a new camera at duty free :-) so for Galapagos there is no fear the old camera will break. Always good to have a spare. 
Arrive in Quito and back at our home from home Aleida’s and wait for Nikki and Andy to arrive. I know they are not getting in until 10.30 or so and then it is an hour drive, I am determined to say hello. I am in my PJ’s drifting off when I hear a ring on the bell. I pop my head out and it is Nikki and Andy, how lovely to see them. We have a quick half an hour chat and then go to bed as they have been up for 24 hours or there about.

Day 89- Friday 31.5.13
Nikki and Andy have brought out a mini laptop and old iPhone brought off eBay so hopefully I will soon be up and running again :-) 
Back in Quito we decide to show Nikki and Andy the sights. We first walk around the Marsicle and take them to our favorite hot chocolate shop.
We then decide to head over to Old town as we have time and if we see it now we can possibly do a trip somewhere for the last 2 days of the holiday. We all jump in a cab to Grande Plaza and show them the sights that we saw about a month ago now. After too many churches we go to a café for some lunch, one that Loll and I had been to previously and we thought was very nice.
Unfortunately for us it turned out to be a wrong decision. As I went to the toilet and left the table, a lady came up and started saying something inaudible in Spanish. She soon left and I arrived back at the table and asked where our rucksac was to use the antibac! It then transpired that she must have had someone with her who as she spoke to Loll, Andy and Nikki that her accomplice swiped the bag. We could not believe it, it was only 30 seconds that neither of us had a hand on the bag. We must have been getting too comfortable.
Andy and Laurence ran outside to see if they could see the lady, who was wearing a very attractive purple shell suit. They could not see anyone and came across 2 policemen. Laurence's now famous catch line said "distracto robbo" and came back to the cafe. Nikki and I had also found some policemen and were waiting for they guys to return. We were then escorted to an office off the old square where we spoke to a policeman who said he had to take us somewhere else. We were all a bit confused but jumped in the police car, and soon realised we were being taken to new town where there was a larger office for tourist police. There we had to give a statement and describe what had been stolen (bag, both our rain jackets, Laurence's Prescription Ray ban sunglasses, a scarf, a small medical kit we carried around and a few other things that were nominal)
At this time Andy decided to draw a picture of the robber, which all set us into a fits of laughter. I am not sure how the tourist police took this, but we found it hilarious.
The tourist police basically said we would not get anything back but the report was for our insurance claim. So fingers crossed they will pay out.

As we were going to the jungle the next day though we then needed to get some new jackets and a bag, we head back to the hostel to get my credit card and have some lunch before we head out for some retail therapy. As we are at the hostel we start realising that there were other things in the bag- Laurence's other pair of prescription sunglasses were also in there. So no sunglasses now, only wearing contacts :-(

It is amazing how few outdoor shops there actually are in Quito, and we knew them quite well after our sleeping bag buying previously. We hunt in all the shops and end up settling for a couple of rain macs. They are not as good as our other ones and we are both feeling a bit down by the whole experience. I then go to pay with my credit card and they ask for passport ID, of course I do not have my passport on me, oh how can this day get any worse! Nikki luckily has a credit card and driving license- to the rescue.
All the day pack rucksacks are either too small or just too expensive, we stumble across the shop where we brought our bargain sleeping bags. They have a great rucksack. Happy all round now. What a day.
We then have a few drinks in the square before we head back to Aleida's for pizza and beers. Laurence is never going to have a dirty martini again, wrong choice on drink!
What a day. So many ups and downs, but don't think we could have got through it so well if Nikki and Andy hadn't been there helping us through. We still managed to laugh a lot although we were very upset. We are going to be extra cautious now!

Day 90- Saturday 1.6.13
Quito/ Lago Agria/ Cuyabeno Reserve
We leave all our electricals at the hostel in Quito after our luck with water we don't want to take any risks. Not had time to sort out phone or laptop. 
Up to get our flight to the jungle. All goes OK and arrive in a tiny airport that has the funniest bag carrousel ever. It is so hot and humid as soon as we step out of the airport. There is a clapped out old bus there to drive us the 2 hours to where we get the Canoe from. We all drift off in the heat and wake up at the entrance of Cuyabeno reserve where we sign in and have to get in a canoe for another 2 hours!
"first time in the canoe"

"first time in the canoe"

"fun times ahead"

"fun times ahead"

What amazing scenery and wildlife we saw just on the way to the lodges. We are all a bit apprehensive getting in to the canoe but that is soon forgotten. We saw Monkeys, Birds , an Anaconda, and some owls. The one thing Andy wanted to see was an Anaconda so first tick off the list. As the canoe is going along there are hundreds of butterflies flying around the canoe and our heads, it seems so magical.
"spot the monkey"

"spot the monkey"

We arrive for a late lunch, meet our guide, Rom, and the rest of the group who we are spending our 4 days with who had arrived the day earlier, Ryan, Jasper and Roy all from Holland, who are out in Quito on internships.
It is hot, hot, hot in the jungle, and we go out for an afternoon on the boat to spot some wildlife and to the lagoon. The scenery is amazing. A total contrast to anything we have seen so far.
We all go for a swim in the middle of the lagoon, what a great way to cool off. We watch the sunset at the lagoon.
"beautiful Amazon sunset"

"beautiful Amazon sunset"

We go for a short night walk round the camp, but don't see much. There is quite a lot of noise and I am sure the animals can hear us a mile off!
We head back to camp where we see the resident caiman. Lurking in the swamp water under our huts.  Not a nice thought that we are going to sleep above it!

Day 91- Sunday 2.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve
I sort through my day bag, to discover that our snacks gave been eaten by something! I check the bag but can not see anything in it. What I don't understand is that the zip was shut somehow something got in- it is a mystery?? I throw everything out and Nikki puts her snacks into the fridge as Rom suggested on day one, but I didn't hear. 
After breakfast we head off in the canoe again for a morning of animal spotting. It is still really hot and had no rain yet. We then go to a local community to learn how to make yucca bread. We look around an area of the village where they grow the fruit and veg and medicinal plants. Rom picks something and says it helps a lot of different illnesses and asks for a volunteer. Stupidly I say yes and he starts tapping this plant on my hand it is quite prickly and doesn't feel very nice . Then about 5 mins later my hand has had a red allergic reaction, apparently this is meant to happen and it is the plant seeping into your body! Oh well at least it is meant to be doing good! 
"spiky plant"

"spiky plant"

"sore hand :-("

"sore hand :-("

We also learn about a plant that the indigenous use for face painting and get tribal markings drawn on our faces!
We then harvest the yucca from the garden and see how it is prepared, grated, and then cooked. It has nothing else added it is only yucca. Very interesting to see. We all have a taste of it and Andy gets nominated to have a go. He does pretty well.
We then have lunch and we all buy a tribal bracelet and jump back in the canoe for more animal spotting. We see monkeys and birds but not a lot else. It gets a bit frustrating.
We head back to camp for dinner. We walk into our hut and there is a massive tarantula on the curtain! Arghhhhh!!! It is quite ironic really as our hut is called tarantula hut! Ryan comes in to try and catch it but it crawls out the hole in the wall (window) and disappears for now! 
"arghhh- I hope it doesn't stay the night"

"arghhh- I hope it doesn't stay the night"

We then go out in the canoe again, animal spotting and the lagoon, another beautiful sunset.
We are due to do a night walk after dinner, but the rains comes in which we are all quite pleased about. An evening of cards, chatting, drinking and fun!
I have started feeling quite sick here I think because nothing is clean. Our bathroom is just horrible. All a bit much after a couple of days. 

Day 92- Monday 3.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve
After breakfast we all jump in the canoe for a trip to the other side of the lagoon for a jungle day walk. We have sprayed ourselves with tones of Mozzie spray but just hear them around us all the time, we have hoods up, trying not to touch anything. It is quite a funny sight!
What an interesting walk, I spot the best thing we see a rainbow boa snake. We see spiders and lots of other small creepy crawlies. Rom is telling us all to watch our footing and then totally steps in the mud up to his knee :-) very funny! We all take even more precaution.
We then have to hand paddle all the way back to the lodge, across the lagoon and up the river! It takes ages. We are not very good rowers and keep knocking all the paddles together, half the time it is just Nikki and I rowing.
"row row row your boat"

"row row row your boat"

We stop in the lagoon for a morning swim and then continue on paddling, lunch feels a long way away. It takes ages, Rom keeps saying it is round the next corner but it is not, about 7 corners later we finally see the jetty for the lodge, hooray we made it finally. All feeling very knackered we have lunch and laze in the hammocks till the afternoon activity.
"chillin' out"

"chillin' out"

A new group of people arrive, we all jump in the canoe- it feels a little more precarious with 6 more people in it! 
We sail around in the canoe looking out for animals. What a great afternoon. We spot a sloth (Nikki's most wanted to see) river dolphins (my most wanted to see) lots more monkeys.
"sloth, and it moved for us"

"sloth, and it moved for us"

We then go to the lagoon for another swim. We are kind if over it now and as we are going on a night walk decide not to go in. We watch an amazing sunset and head across the lagoon for our night walk. 
We arrive the other side of the lagoon for a long night walk. We see snakes, spiders and bugs, and a lot of darkness!
Then we all hop back in the canoes for dinner. It is pitch black driving though the rivers in the dark. Wouldn't want to capsize now! 
Another night of drinks, laughter and card games.

Day 93- Tuesday 4.6.13
Cuyabeno Reserve/ Lago Agria/ Quito
We are up early for a morning boat trip at 6 as it is our last morning here. 
Unfortunately we don't see anything. I think we are all over the canoe now and ready to head back to a bit more civilization.
Nikki, Loll and I decide not to have a shower as we have had enough of swamp water showers and we can have a lovely hot one this evening back at Aleida's for the night.
As we pack up after our last breakfast it starts to rain, Oh no we have 2 hours on the canoe going back to the reserve entrance. We hope it stops by the time we set off. No! We all pile in to the canoe in our Samona lodge ponchos feeling cold and wet! After about 10 mins we are done, but have another 2 hours to go. At least we finally get to use our new rain macs!!!
"it rains in the rainforest! we were so lucky it wasn't like this for 4 days"

"it rains in the rainforest! we were so lucky it wasn't like this for 4 days"

We have a different driver who is a bit kamakazie, it feels like the canoe is going to go over a couple of times! We arrive OK to dry land thankfully and have lunch and jump on the bus for another two hours. Our flight is not until this afternoon so we get dropped off in Lago Agria as there is nothing at the airport, for a drink and snack. We drop Ryan, Jasper and Roy at the bus station for their 10 hour Bus journey, say our good-byes to Rom and go and get a drink and a snack. There is not much going on.
Journey back was fine, apart from heavy traffic back in Quito as it was rush hour.
We arrive at Aleida's and get a nasty shock to find out there is no water! There has been an oil spill in the jungle and it has affected the water in the neighborhood we are staying. Oh no, all we wanted was a nice shower after a dirty few days in the jungle :-( we now have to wait til the boat tomorrow! Can't even flush the toilet properly! We have to poor buckets of water down the loo not fun :-(
We get pizza dinner and sort out the next few days after Galapagos and re pack and to bed as we have a very early start. 

Day 94- Wednesday 5.6.13
Quito/ Guyaquil/ Baltra Island/ Santa Cruz Island
Up early at 4.30am and to the airport for the Galapagos
It is all quite confusing, we go to check in but then need to get our bags checked to make sure we are not smuggling anything in! Get them checked and passed and tagged.
Check in finally. Flight is OK with a stop over at Guyaquil.
We arrive to a warm Galapagos. Lovely :-) but have to wait for the rest of the group who are on a later flight. We all jump on to a clapped out old bus heading for the boat. There is a nice American family, an Australian couple, a Dutch couple, 2 Spanish brothers and Milan a Serbian/ American viola player. What a varied group. 
Nikki sees the boats in the harbor and points to the most shabby one and says I hope that is not our one. We get in the dinghies and surprise surprise that is our boat. It looks much better once on board, inside and cabins are great. Pure luxury after jungle basics! We set sail and all jump in the shower as soon as possible. 
There is a lovely lunch set out and we set sail to Black Turtle cove. It is so warm, it is lovely. We all hop in the dinghies and sail into the cove.
"in another boat"

"in another boat"

Seeing loads of wildlife straight away, can't believe it. Turtles/ birds/ stingrays/ pelicans. After a few hours on the dinghies we head back to the main boat.
"turtles in turtle cove"

"turtles in turtle cove"

We all have a chill out and set sail waiting for dinner.
We then sail for a few hours, we all decide to take a sea sickness tablet for safety and all feel OK. 
As we are sailing there are sharks swimming around the boat. Loads of pelicans and fish. Fish/ sharks/ pelicans.
We have a welcome drink and dinner, with lots of fruit which our diet has been lacking so it is lovely.
This place is amazing we have seen so much today if this is anything to go by we will see loads. Very excited about the next few days. 
Early bed as early start. 

Day 95- Thursday 6.6.13
Santiago Island
Early start. Up and breakfast. Ready for a wet landing on the island of Santiago- Puerto Egas.
A wet landing is one where the dinghy goes up to the shore but you have to jump out into the shallow water and walk on to the land. We all manage it OK, but I seem to get half my trousers soaked!
We are the only group on land and walk along the beach and rocks.
We see so many animals , Sealions/ marine iguanas/ crabs/ seals/ turtles/ booby birds/ yellow birds/ blue footed booby birds.
There are hundreds of marine iguanas. Never seen anything like it.
"marine iguana"

"marine iguana"

After a couple of hours walking and spotting things, there were a few other groups who also landed, but it seems very well organized that there are not too many people at any one time. Every boat has it's specific schedule. 
We then get back to the boat to get wet suits on and go snorkeling along the reef. The dingy takes us out and we jump off the side- the water is freezing and the wet suit is not helping much. Amazing underwater scenes. Snorkeling- freezing but amazing lots of fish/ turtles different sea life.
After about half an hour we get out for a well deserved lunch, what a packed Morning.
The afternoon is an expedition to the other side of Santiago - Espumilla beach/ buccaneers cove for a walk. It is another wet landing and we all get on the beach OK but go to the rocks to get our shoes on. Heather, the American kid has her iPhone in a shoe and a big wave comes up and gets it wet. I tell her I have a bag of rice in my bag she can have!  and hand over the bag of rice when we are back on the boat with instructions
The Afternoon walk up hill terrain. We see turtle nests and continue into the foliage of the island. We see a lot of landscape, but on our way back to the beach there are hawks in the trees. Again, amazing!!!! There ends up being about 6 to 8 hawks on the beach at certain spots. They do not seem bothered by us at all and are all just chilling out. 


Again after a few hours in the island we head back to the boat. 
We set sail again and forget to take the sea tablet before, hopefully we will feel OK. We pass a rock called 'priest' rock it apparently looks like a priest, we struggle to see it but at one angle it actually looks like a priest. 
I give Heather the famous bag of rice, at least it goes to another good cause. I certainly don't need it, it didn't save my phone :-( 
Before dinner we have a talk with our guide Williams to tell us what is going to happen the next day. 
We start to feel a bit worse for wear so decide to take a sea sickness tablet after dinner. It helps a lot. 

Day 96- Friday 7.6.13
Bartholomew/ Santiago/ Santa Cruz
We are Up early and before breakfast go penguin spotting. It takes a while, but we spot a few. Back in the boat for Breakfast.
"penguins :-)"

"penguins :-)"

Then we have a dry landing to Walk up Bartholomew island which has walkways and stairs to the top. Every island we have been on has such different landscape. We can see why the Galapagos is a place everyone should see. 
We then have another snorkeling expedition, it feels colder today. But we are hoping to see penguins swim so jump in. Loads of starfish and fish, eels. But no penguins :-(
I have to get out after about 20 mins as I am too cold. 
Have lunch and a chill on the boat. Then another dry landing on a different part of Santiago. We see more penguins as we approach the island in the boat. We are walking on dried lava. It looks like something unreal. Apparently the island next to it looked like this so many years ago. You can see the evolution from one island to the next. The lava is black and just radiating heat. We have about an hour walk on the lava and see where the lava and earth have met. 
"an island"

"an island"

"crazy lava island"

"crazy lava island"

Then there is a snorkeling opportunity for the afternoon, but we are feeling a bit cold now so Andy is the only one brave enough.
We then set sail for about 6 hours. We take a tablet in time today, but it wears off after about 4 hours, 
There is a world cup qualifier on today. Ecuador and Peru. The boys watch but  Nikki and I sit on deck. It gets quite choppy at times and the boat is really swaying. We just long for the dock. 
We finally arrive in Puerto ayero where we are allowed off the boat to explore. There is one main street but apart from that not a lot. A few souvenir shops open but for a Friday night pretty dead. We go for a drink and wait til 11.30 when the dinghy is picking us up.

Day 97- Saturday 8.6.13
Santa Cruz/Baltra/ Guyaquil 
A sad day, we pack up and have breakfast. The group is splitting today. Some people are on an 8 day cruise so they are doing a different thing. The people leaving drive through the island and stop at the twin creators. Again foliage/ landscape is different to any other island we have seen. It is a shame as some people are on an earlier flight than us so we have to get to the airport by 9.30. We feel we don't really have a full morning activity. This is the only negative we have had, and all feel it would be great to have another day, but no :-(
We have decided to stop in Guayaquil for a couple of days so change our flight at the airport. Luckily  we manage to get on the early flight too. 
We arrive in Guayaquil and head to our hostel. 
We chill-out by the pool. It is the first time Loll has been able to look at the computer and download/ update everything that needs doing. So we have a few hours chilling out and sorting stuff out.
We read about the Marcon 2000 a waterfront promenade which is part of the re generation of the area. So we go there for dinner.  We wander up and down trying to find all the restaurants and bars we have read about but there does not seem to be a lot there. We settle on a restaurant we have passed and have dinner. After food we head back to the hostel as it doesn't seem to be a lot happening in Guayaquil.

Day 98- Sunday 9.6.13
Lie in :-) first for ages no schedule, really nice. 
After Breakfast, we have a chilled morning, all sorting out next stages, Nikki and Andy's flight back to Quito, I research buses to Banos as easier to travel from where we are than go back to Quito. Book hostels. Loll sorting computer. And trying to get the iPhone working. It looks however that because it has been jailbroken it will not authorize to my apple account. Oh well :-( no phone for me still!!!! At least the laptop is up and running. 

We Go out for lunch to Cerro Santa Ana one of the few places that seems OK to go to. We climb up the steps of the hill - there are a lot and find a small place open for lunch- it is Sunday there is not a lot open. A very local place with traditional meat, rice, beans for bargain price.
We walk back along waterfront to find tourist info, but it turns out to be only for the train and no info actually for buses. 
We have read about an Artisan market and wander to that, but it is shut. It is so hot we decide to go back to the hostel to chill out and research.
We start to pack and get ourselves sorted for travel day tomorrow. It feels very weird.
We stay local for dinner and Andy has local crab, Loll has mixed ceviche which seems to have baby octopus in it he is not too keen on!
Back to hostel for our last drinks together :-(

Day 99- Monday 10.6.13
Guyaquil/ Banos
Packed up, breakfast, say our goodbyes :-( very sad
I am a total mess today, saying goodbye is really difficult, It has been the best having our mates come out to visit us and we have seen so much in the last 10 days. It will be so weird being on our own again and we now have no plan at all as Nikki and Andy’s trip was the last point of anything organised, really need to get ourselves in order and start sorting out the next stages. I can’t really say goodbye so I jump in the taxi crying.

We head to the Bus terminal, which is a bit hectic to workout. We have read only a few buses go to Banos and some are not good. So are looking out for specific bus company. Some have buses going at night, again don't want to do a night bus in Ecuador as not great either, finally find bus and it goes in about an hour. We get a few bits and bobs for the journey, find somewhere to buy stamps so can finally post postcards we have been carting around and wait for our bus. 
It is a 7-8 hour bus journey and we have read so many horror stories of bags getting stolen we are totally paranoid. We try to take our bags on the main bus, but the driver says no. He puts them in the hold at the back and we hope for the best. No luggage tag given! Every time the bus stops we stick our head out the window to check our bags aren't being taken. There are some very random films on the bus a Kevin Bacon film that is dubbed in Spanish but I can understand the whole story without understanding any of the language, and then a very poor Jennifer Anniston film that has subtitles so I can actually understand it, although it is not really worth understanding as it is such a rubbish film, I can't even remember the name of it.

We arrive in Banos after not much food or water, knackered. But our bags are still there. We get a cab to the hostel that Clara recommended to us. It costs like $1! We had emailed but no proper booking. They have space, great :-) we check in and decide to Book rafting for the next day! 

It has been so great having our friends come out and have an amazing 10 days together. Lots of laughter, a bit of crying, a few arguments along the way (mainly between Loll and I), but most of all having the best time ever. Amazing memories. Love you guys. xxxx

Posted by Ford and Bates 13:37 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

On our own again! The rest of Colombia

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Day 80- Wednesday 22.5.13
Cartagena/ Santa Marta
We are packed up again for our bus to Santa Marta heading to Tyrona National Park. We get on the mini bus called Marsol bus that picks up people from hostels. We drive around Cartagena for about an hour before we actually get on the road. We notice that a guy we met in Mendoza is on the bus, how random! Our bus keeps pulling over and stopping and eventually the driver opens the bonnet and we stop for about half an hour while he tinkers with something. No one really knows what is going on. We then ask someone who speaks English and Spanish and he says we have to change buses. So we pull over again waiting for the new bus. There is another girl (Clara) going to the same hostel as us so we get chatting and say we will stick together to get to the hostel. The bus arrives and we all pile on, finally it seems like we are making progress.
We arrive in Santa Marta and drop someone off and then we seem to go to Taganga missing our hostel. We chat to Clara and again think that we are not getting to our hostel. We chat about our plans and decide to go to Tyrona together tomorrow.
We arrive at our hostel finally. A lovely place. Nip to the supermarket and back for dinner and sorting a plan with Clara. We hear a few bad stories about Tayrona National Park and good stories about this beach place just past it. So decide to head to Costeno beach in the morning instead.

Day 81- Thursday 23.5.13
Santa Marta/ Costeno beach
Sort out hostel back in Cartagena for night before our flight to Bogota on Monday. Pack up, leave our stuff at the hostel and take a day bag, head to the bus stop. A funny local bus,with sound system blaring, about an hour journey.
local bus

local bus

Clara and I on the local bus

Clara and I on the local bus

Get dropped off at the side of the road and head up a dirt track through a banana plantation. About a 20 min walk, we are hot and sweaty and a van drives by and gives us a lift for the last 5 mins, result! We meet Clara's friend Margot who has just arrived too.
Still got an M&S bag with us :-)

Still got an M&S bag with us :-)

Get shown to our hammocks that will be our home for the next 2 days. The place looks amazing, just a few huts on the beach and nothing else nearby.
We are in time for lunch which is great and then head to the beach - Laurence and I decide to go for a swim as it is so hot. The waves are pretty rough and can only manage to stand and paddle really, but refreshing. It is more for surfing than swimming. It starts to rain so we hang out in the dining area and learn how to play dominos from a guy called Kenny, who was from Haiti/ New York, who was really into alternative stuff like meditation and yoga. A very chilled out individual.
A guy called Santiago who works here has his birthday today so things are getting set up for that balloon blowing, banner hanging. We chill out till dinner. There are some lovely people staying tonight, I get chatting to a really nice German couple who are at the end of their travels and have about 2 weeks left. There are a few English lads, and a couple of Americans.
After dinner the party gets started with game of flip cup. Never played this before, we split in to two teams- Europe vs the rest of the world. There are 13 on each team. It is best of 3. Europe loses the first 2 and has to act like chickens and babies! We must focus and win the 3rd game as the forfeit is give a lap dance to someone on the oppose team. It is close but we win :-) Laurence gets a great lap dance off one of the owners of the hostel (a guy)- very funny. I luckily miss out on a lap dance as was not very keen on the idea. What a funny night.

Day 82- Friday 24.5.13
Costeno Beach
Happy Dayz

Happy Dayz

A really chilled out day, lazy morning, hanging out on the beach reading, all trying to finish our books. A totally relaxing day. Rain heads in about 4 so we all head to dining area again. New people have arrived, randomly a couple of people who were on the Pablo Escobar tour in Medellin. Adam lives in hackney, so we chat about home (Dalston and the kingsland road) which is very bizarre.
Nice evening of drinks and chatting.
beautiful sunset

beautiful sunset

Day 83- Saturday 25.5.13
Costeno Beach/ Santa Marta
OMG it is hot, hot, hot today!
costeno beach

costeno beach

We spend the morning on the beach. Loll and I in the shade in hammocks and Clara and Margot in the full on sunshine. Too hot for me! We don’t want to leave.
We check out about 12 and head to the road for the bus. It is too hot! By the time we have walked to the road, a 15 min walk, we are dripping. Luckily a bus turns up straight away, we hail it and it is going to Santa Marta. We arrive in Santa Marta and Margot gets off at the bus station because she is going to Taganga. The three of us wait until we see the big supermarket where we got on. After about 10 mins we start to worry and Loll pulls out his GPS on his phone. We have gone straight through Santa Marta and on the road out of it. The conductor says we need to get off and get a taxi back! We cross the road and hail another bus that we think says the same as where we got on originally. Some young lads get on and start speaking to us. We ask if the bus goes to big supermarket and point to the map we have. They say yes and will tell us when to get off. We approach a supermarket they tell us to get off, but it is not the supermarket we want! We get out and have to take a taxi back to the hostel!
Get back, pop to supermarket, have a much needed shower- I literally stink! Chill for the evening. Dinner with Clara.
In bed in our 10 bed dorm, no air con, which was a bit of a mistake. It is soooo hot today.

Day 84- Sunday 26.5.13
Santa Marta/ Cartagena
We chill in the morning and say our goodbyes to Clara it has been lovely meeting her and we have both thoroughly enjoyed the last few days. She is heading back home tomorrow after 5 months travel. We get our Marsol bus back to Cartagena. The Journey is marginally quicker than the way there. We are staying more in old town this time as we had had enough of the area we stayed in before. We arrive at our hostel to be shown to the dorm which has bunk beds which are 3 beds high! As we are the last to arrive today- Laurence and I are in the top bunks! Don’t know how we are going to get in them let alone out! It is quite a small hostel but there are some lovely people, sit in the lounge for a chat before we head out to dinner. We wander round town but as it is Sunday there is not a lot open again, we manage to find a small cool looking café to have dinner and head back to the hostel. Apparently there is an airport in Santa Marta- if we had known this we could have flown direct from Santa Marta to Bogota, but didn’t know where we would be at time of booking.

Day 85- Monday 27.5.13
Cartagena/ Bogota
Up early to pack. We have to take our sleeping bags on as a big hand luggage bag. We arrive at the airport no problem. An easy flight with no issues. We arrive in Bogota and get a taxi to the hostel. The hostel is an amazing colonial house in La Candelaria area. We sort out some much needed laundry and take it round the corner. Joshua from the hostel advises us to write a list of everything that goes into wash as somethings have gone missing, which we do.
We then head out to dinner and end up in a café round the corner from the hostel ad an early bed.

Day 86- Tuesday 28.5.13
My camera has started playing up after getting some sand in it on the beach. I am worries it will break at the worst moment in the middle of the Galapagos or something, so we head out to see if we can find any camera shops with good deals. There are a few but we decide to wait and look at reviews on line before we buy. We then go to the Museo del Oro (Gold Museum) it is vast and has so much information in it. It is very interesting but Laurence and I are flagging and go for a late lunch.
We go to pick up our laundry, looks like everything is there. Take it back to the hostel and check off our list. We have everything plus a random pair of trousers, which we have to take back to the laundrette. The lady is very pleased we have returned them. At least we got all our stuff back!
We have arranged to meet Adrian tonight who is also now in Bogota. We meet in Bolivar square and find somewhere to go for a drink. We find the Bogota Beer Company (BBC) and have some local beers. It is nice to catch up and hear what he has been up to- we exchange stories. We are all going to the salt cathedral tomorrow so we decide to meet up and go together. We find a rather random pizza place for dinner and head back to our hostels.

Day 87- Wednesday 29.5.13
Bogota/ Zipaquira
We are up and out early as it is a long journey to The Salt cathedral in Zipaquira. We meet Adrian at the bus stop that will take us to the where we catch a bus out of town. The journey to Zipaquira takes about 2 hours. We arrive in a nice little town with no signs to the cathedral. After asking about 5 different people we head in the direction of the hill and where we need to go. We walk up a hill to the main park, there are hardly any people here. We go to the ticket office. After discussing what ticket type to get we go to the main entrance. We were all expecting a cathedral carved out of salt or something like that, it is actually a salt mine where cathedrals have been made underground.
Salt Cathedral

Salt Cathedral



We wait for our tour to start to enter the mine. It is very interesting but just not what any of us was expecting, after a couple of hours walking round we decide we have seen enough and look for some lunch in town. We then jump back on the bus to Bogota for our last meal together.
in the mine

in the mine

We meet Adrian at his hostel, we have looked up a restaurant nearby to go to so try and find this, It is closed! So wander round looking for a place for dinner. We find a nice hotel/ restaurant and have a nice meal. It feels strange again to say goodbye to Adrian who is heading home to the UK and we are heading back to Ecuador to meet Nikki and Andy.
We have had an amazing time in Colombia and already want to come back soon for a 2 week holiday for all the things we have missed out :-) something to look forward to once we are back in the UK!

Posted by Ford and Bates 17:00 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Is this the bus , sorry 'Truck' to Cartagena?

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Is this the bus to Cartagna?
Day 61- Friday 3.5.13
Check out today to meet up with our Dragoman trip. It has been nice at Adelia's but quite quiet. Elena has been lovely, a real home from home.
Staying in the Marsicle for one night, so go to find our hostel for the night. We have a last wander around town getting things we need for our trip. We have a hot chocolate in our favorite coffee shop that sells 55% cocoa hot chocolate. It also does 70% and 100% but we think 55 % Is too die for!
Back to the hostel with a bit of intrepidation we go to our first group meeting. We meet Katie and Domingo our drivers and guides, Karen from Canada, Adrian from London. It is a small groups including ourselves but seems like we will all get on, similar ages so looking forward to the next 19 days.
We go out for a meal nearby. All drinking and chatting and suddenly there is a big commotion with one of the waiters. He goes outside, lots of yelling, then the shutters come down of the restaurant. We all look a bit anxious at this point but still order our food and carry on as normal. It turned out that some people tried to leave without paying. Food arrives, lovely evening, drinks and chatting.
We then all head for dancing. There are some people from the Dragoman trip that has just finished. We all end up in this crazy R&B/ Reggae club that is playing old school R&B. Laurence shaking his booty to snoop dog, 50 cent and the like, Brilliant!!!

Day 62- Saturday 4.5.13
Quito/ Otavalo
We head off on the truck, Gus at 8 am heading north. We have been given strict instructions not to call GUS a bus she is a Truck, if the word bus is used there is a forfeit to wear the largest pants ever with a picture of a truck on them - The Truck Pants! We continue north to the Miter Del Mundo (equator). Although where the monument and park are is actually built about 200 meters south of the equator!!! So it is the 'not the actual equator'. There is not much to see but good to say we have been there.
loll across the (not)ecuator!

loll across the (not)ecuator!

not the ecuator

not the ecuator

We continue North to Otavalo where there is a huge market- fruit and veg, local crafts, new products- the market stretches nearly the whole length of the town. In the veg market there are food stalls which we venture to for lunch. Looking around there are pigs heads lots of roast pork. Karen and I spot some rice, pasta veg dish and head over. We sit in front of the stall where there are a few benches. The lady asks if we want everything, I say yes, she then proceeds to mix in an unidentifiable ingredient and serves up a huge plateful of rice, spaghetti, veg, potato, fried egg and salad. I pick around the unidentifiable ingredient either meat or chestnut or something, but well worth it a lovely lunch and only $2. Much better for the budget. Laurence and Adrian go for a meat option.
After wandering the whole market and town we go to our hostel. A beautiful little spot apparently surrounded by Volcanoes but the clouds have rolled in and we can't see any scenery, the rain starts falling! We get the tents up quickly and settle into the restaurant area with a nice cuppa and a beer. We sit and chat waiting for dinner. Going to bed we have to get all our stuff from the truck to make our beds, next time we need to do this before darkness sets in. Crawl into the tent for the night as the rain hammers all through the night.

Day 63- Sunday 5.5.13
Otavalo/ Ipiales
Welcome to Colombia :-) our 4th country!
We set off early towards the border. We get through OK, no issues, but we had to change money at the border. There are lots of cambios (men) with wads of cash in their hands asking if you want to change dollars. We agree a rate after much discussion with different men and hand over our money. All very strange but everyone seems to do it.
We continue through Ipiales. There are loads of cafes serving Guinea pig. We decide to stop for lunch. We all wander after Domingo as he negotiates which is the best place to eat. We find a cafe with an outside table. The group orders a nice roasted guinea pig set menu, soup, guinea pig with rice and plantain. I opt for corn soup.
The guinea pigs are roasted on wheels with about 6 animals on one wheel.
“Guinea pigs live on a wheel and die on a wheel”. I have to credit Adrian for that one.
Laurence gets the head section which he is not too keen on and picks slowly round the animal. He reminisces about a school pet he had called Boris! I eat my soup and wonder what all the fuss is about so try a very small piece of guinea pig! It doesn't really taste of much and I don't see what all the fuss is about.
yum yum

yum yum

what great advertising

what great advertising



I then go to the toilet and there is a little girl trying to use the hand dryer. I come out and say no trabajo (no working), and she smiles at me. She then asks where I am from. I say England. I have a love chat in broken Spanish but get that her name is Nicole and she is 8 years old. Very sweet.
After the hearty lunch we go to see the neo gothic church nearby El Santuario de las Lajas. There is a vision of the Virgin Mary, that appeared on the rock face and they built the church around it in the middle of the valley. I don't know how they ever discovered it. It is a neo classic church and the last sections were built as late as 1960's.
El Santuario de las Lajas

El Santuario de las Lajas

There is a mass on and as we are leaving everyone was singing Blowing in the wind, by Bob Dillon, in Spanish. On to the hostel in Ipiales where we are staying, prob the worst hostel we have stayed in so far. I have a shower and it is only really a hose that splutters hot water at me. No point in putting the cold on as would just get bursts of cold water when the hot splutters out. Not a very refreshing shower.
Go out to dinner, change up some more money. There are loads of cambios on street corners in town as well, same rate as the border. People come up in their cars and hand over money; I can't believe this is the norm. Laurence, Katie and Adrian all have street food. Sausage on a stick and kebabs. We go for a couple of drinks, where they sell slices of pizza so I opt for one of those. The only one they do by slice is tropical. It comes out and it has peaches, pineapple and glacé cherries on it. Surprisingly it works and tastes very nice :-)

Day 64- Monday 6.5.13
Ipiales/ Popayan
Long drive north to Popayan. This is the stretch of road that is meant to be a bit dodgy with Para military activity, only unsafe if driving at night. No issues. There is amazing scenery all the way.
amazing scenery

amazing scenery

You forget we are traveling in a black, white and orange truck and get some very funny looks driving through small towns. Waving and smiling at people as we past them, it is really nice when they wave back.
Stop for lunch in the middle of nowhere but still get amazing food very cheaply- Loll has meat, sauce, rice, potatoes I have eggs rice and plantain, very filling.
We stop at numerous traffic lights and people try to sell things. It is great chatting to locals out of the window of the truck.
We stop at a police check, and Katie and Domingo are getting paperwork out, we have stopped by a football pitch. There are loads of kids about 8 to 12 years old all very curious about the truck and us. We have a nice chat through the window, where are you from? What’s your name? They are very funny. We say chao and wave goodbye as we drive off.
At another point we stop at road works. There is a girl selling jelly and a couple of boys younger than her about 8 or 10. The boy starts chatting to me and she just stands there are says to me He is ‘loco, loco’ (crazy). They just laugh and have fun, it is great to have local interaction. They make me laugh.
Loll on the truck

Loll on the truck

The hostel we are staying at is our first dorm. We are only sharing with Adrian but even so shared bathrooms. I am on the top bunk for the first time since I was about 10! We have a nice Italian meal with everyone and have some drinks back at the hostel.
Water log issue no. 1- I head to bed, where I promptly go and drop my IPhone down the toilet!!! I can't believe it. I grab it as quickly as possible and dry it off with a towel. I turn it off but the light is still on so go back in to try and turn the light off. No joy. I then see the screen do very odd things so turn it off straight away. Sleep very badly worrying about my phone :-( Really annoyed.

Day 65- Tuesday 7.5.13
Popayan/ Cali
I tell Adrian about my phone and he says I need to put it in bag of rice or something to absorb all the moisture. Laurence goes out at 8 am to get some rice! I carefully package my phone in a sealable bag and leave for a min of 36 hours :-(
We start taking our malaria tablets today, we have taken them after breakfast not great on the stomach, as we are walking round feel a bit ill so have to get a cheese empanada as a snack. We go off to look for the market, Popayan is a nice town, white washed buildings, quite small, lots of churches. We walk around it in about 30 mins and can't find the market. So we head in the direction of the local market (which sells everything you could possibly want). A lot of shoes! Nice to see.


Go back into town and look at San Francisco Church and the Cathedral, both had severe earthquake damage in 1983 but have been fully restored. Head back to hostel before the heavens open!
Jump in the truck for drive to Cali. Arrive in Cali and we are all in a dorm together. Getting used to this!
There is a ceviche restaurant across the road that Katie and Domingo have been raving about for days so we all head there for dinner. I have never had ceviche as a full meal but as an appetiser. Amazing flavors but the texture was not for me, Laurence loved it! We then head to an ice cream place for pudding. Chill in the hostel as weather was poor, watched a few films.

Day 66- Wednesday 8.5.13
It is hot, hot, hot, in Cali. Katie, Karen, Adrian, Laurence and I all go out for a city tour that we have a route for. We walk around a lot of Cali, churches, churches, museums. We go round the gold museum, park, hill, water stops, it is very hot. See cat alley which has lots of cat statues decorated in different ways.
one of the sights of Cali

one of the sights of Cali

Cat Alley

Cat Alley

Get back to the hostel a bit exhausted. I grab some veg rice and everyone eats back at the ceviche restaurant.
A guy has turned up at the hostel that has travelled across the Panama Canal on a raft he made with his motor bike in the middle of it for power! It reminded me of the ‘life of Pi’ book. He does a photo show and tells some stories of his travels. He has been traveling on his motorbike for 3 years around the world and his last section was building his raft and mounting his bike on it to help power the raft. He filled it with food and water and petrol for the journey and set off, apparently with not any navigation or sailing knowledge- which I find hard to believe. It took him 6 weeks as he got pulled out by the current, but it doesn’t sound like a sensible thing to do. There were a couple of moments he thought he was not going to make it, but moments of sheer joy when dolphins swam with him for a long stretch. I think he was loco! What different people you meet.

Day 67- Thursday 9.5.13
Cali/ Manizales- Hacienda
Up early to be at the supermarket for 7 am to do a group shop for food the next few days. We manage to overspend and have to put things back. My mental arithmetic is obviously not as good as I thought it was!
We then get on the road for the coffee plantation. We arrive in a beautiful spot right in the valley. Hacienda Venecia. We put the tents up as we are camping.
The Hacienda

The Hacienda

Try my phone after 2 days in rice - nothing! Think it is dead :-( but put it back in the bag of rice just one last time.
Loll has been saying ‘Bus’ way too much, so Katie has finally said he must wear the truck pants! It has been a long time coming and I am surprised it is only now that he has had to wear them! Very funny though as he wears them in style and struts his stuff to the whole group cracking up!
truck pants

truck pants

Chill for a couple of hours and then start dinner on the industrial camping stove, in the outhouse at the back of the hacienda. Nice dinner and then to bed- it rained most if the night- it is wet season.

Day 68- Friday 10.5.13
Hacienda/ Manizales
Up early to be picked up at 8 am to head into Manizales.
We are ready on time and wait for our pick up to arrive. 40 mins later as we are all starting to doze off, Katie appears and is 'why are you all still here?' We look blankly and say jeep hasn't turned up. She sorts it out and we all jump into an old army jeep holding on for dear life in the direction of Manizales.
We arrive and meet our guide and arrive at a local childrens charity (I can't remember the name of the frailty, but want to publish this so will update later). This is a small charity to help children of deprived backgrounds. It is a kindergarten that has 2 sites and looks after 120 children. We are going to visit one of the sites in town. We learn a bit about the charity and then go to see the children who are 2-5 years old. We visit each class of different age groups. What an amazing place. The children all look very happy to be there. In the older group we get given pictures that the children have drawn and they sing us songs. One of them started dancing- body popping to some music. Very sweet. We say our goodbyes and go for lunch before our walking tour.
A slow start to the tour as the new area of town doesn't have too much of interest. Go on the cable car over the city.
view of manizales

view of manizales

funeral church

funeral church

It is nice to see the full view of the place. By the time we get into old town we see a few churches- we walk into one and there is a funeral going on we promptly leave again, the main square, the market, and then we walk up this hill, stop at a point, think it is the top, no, keep walking to another point, think it is the top, no, keep walking to another point- finally get to the top. Amazing views of the surrounding area. There is a sculpture depicting the city and founding of it. The sculpture is as good as the views.
only part of the amazing statue

only part of the amazing statue

After a long day of walking we are pleased to get back into the jeep to the hacienda. We seem to go the back route as it is much bumpier than the way there. Get back to the hacienda to find 10 Dutch men have arrived for the night. Katie and Domingo cook dinner for us, a lovely paella. We then have an evening of card games and drinking. Animal snap is hilarious!!!

Day 69- Saturday 11.5.13
A day at the Hacienda. We spend the morning chilling in hammocks, dozing off at every opportunity. It is nice to have a day to relax. It is a little overcast so not really warm enough for the pool which is a shame. In the afternoon we do a tour of the coffee plantation. Ruben our guide tells us all about coffee; where it is from, where it is grown, different types- really interesting. After an Espresso we head off to visit the fields. (yes, I have resorted to drinking coffee in Colombia, there is no tea anywhere)
Absolutely fascinating- I could have a career change and become a coffee picker in harvest time. I would be very happy to stay here or could become a coffee buyer! Seeing as I don't drink coffee but here have had the odd espresso I could change my habits :-) Laurence is in his element loving the free coffee.
After a really interesting tour we go back to chilling out for the rest of the day in hammocks. This is the life :-)


Day 70- Sunday 12.5.13
Hacienda/ Guatape
Pack up our tents and have breakfast before a long drive day to Guatape. It is glorious sunshine today. A shame it was not like this yesterday and showering today as we are on the truck. Stop for lunch by the side of the road. There are a few shops. I have a potato thing which I discover has meat in it, So I have to pick around it. Otherwise there is just chicken. While standing outside we cause quite a commotion with the locals. One wants to get mine and Laurence's picture in front of the truck with his family. So we pose for the picture. This must be what it is like to be famous!
We continue on to Guatape and a rock called El Penol, which has 740 steps to climb to the top to view El Embalse del Penol a huge artificial lake that generates most of Colombia’s electricity. It is well worth the hike for the views.
El Penol

El Penol

what a view!

what a view!

Then on to our hostel. Lovely views of the artificial lake, although it seems to be drying up at the moment. The water is so low from the trees. We then head to town for another group shop.
Water log issue no. 2- we have been keeping our passports in a very safe place and went to get some money out as we were going into town and our passports plus our money was soaking wet!!! Absolutely drenched through- pages curling up, stamp ink running all over the place, Very upset :-) We take everything out of the safe place to dry over the next few days. Hopefully they will be ok.
We do our shop, not a very big supermarket and it is very heavy rain. Back to hostel to drop bags and then head back to town for dinner. Nice local trout. As the heavens are still open we opt for a tuc tuc back. They are the taxis in Guatape, all brightly painted, a very cheap ride.

Day 71- Monday 13.5.13
Slow start. We chill at the hostel, have lunch and then head for a boat tour on the lake. We wanted to do waterfall walking but apparently the water levels are really low and it is likely to rain so will just get very cold. So we all opt for a boat ride on the lake and to visit the sunken town.
We are now in Colombia raining season, it is still a pleasant temperature, but the heavens can open at any time.
The boat trip was fun. We walk to the jetty and find our guide. We all climb on the small motor boat. Our guide gets us off into the lake. He then gestures to me to drive the boat! Very funny, he keeps telling me to go faster; I opt for a safe speed. It is pretty easy as you just need to steer, avoiding the other boats. After about 10 mins he gestures to Laurence to drive, at this point I make sure everyone know he cannot drive a car- so with baited breath we all hold on very tight and away he goes! Very funny.
racing driver

racing driver

racing driver 2!

racing driver 2!

We see Pablo Escobar’s old mansion that is not a burnt out wreck and then on to a town that the government basically moved so they could have the artificial lake. There is now a cross showing where this town used to be and a small museum with pictures. We then get back in the boat for our return journey and it is Adrian’s turn to drive, he goes full throttle. Again very funny, we are all holding on for dear life.
We head back to the hostel and a cook group meal and watching a film, with the heavens opening again and thunder storms overhead.

Day 72- Tuesday 14.5.13
A slow morning, Laurence and I then make sandwiches and take water for a walk to the rock from the hostel then continue the circuit into town. It is about a 4 hour walk. It is very hot and we nearly run out of water but get to a shop just in time for rehydration and an ice cream :-) and continue along the road into town. We wave at a bus to carry on and it stops and asks if we want to go to Medellin, we say no and it continues on. Every time a taxi goes by it asks if we want a ride into town, I think the locals think we are mad walking in the heat of the day. We arrive in town and go for a beer as a reward for our long walk. We decide to head back to the hostel and see all the guys walking up the promenade to get sweets from a local stall as they have just been round the factory to see how it is made. We join them and buy some local sweets and then we all stop for another beer before heading back to another cook group dinner.

Day 73- Wednesday 15.5.13
Guatape/ Medellin
We leave Guatape sitting in the roof chairs on Gus! Very strange. There are seats at the back of the bus which open onto the roof. We all take our positions and off we go, having to duck every now and then for low flying branches. One such branch caught my top and I thought it was going to rip it off and I would be left in underwear, but luckily I shouted loud enough for Gus to stop and I could sort myself out. We drive the route that we walked yesterday and then all hop back in to our normal seats.
We arrive at lunch time to a very rainy Medellin. Have lunch at a nice vegetarian restaurant and head out to our city tour in Gus, with our guide. It is a shame the weather is so poor, we get out on top of a hill for a view point and get soaked. It slowly brightens up. We see a lot of the city, going on the subway, cable car, on Gus and on foot.
After an afternoon of information we head back to the hostel. As it starts raining again and no one wants to venture out in it. We decide to have beers and order pizza into the hostel. It is a shame as it is rain that just continues with no break.

Day 74- Thursday 16.5.13
We get up to go on what has to be described as the strangest tour we have ever been on. A Pablo Escobar tour. We get picked up and told what we will be doing. First we drive to a derelict building that used to be the headquarters of the gang. It is now having building work done on it to be made into a hotel. We are not very impressed- Don't really understand why we have been brought here. We continue to Pablo Escobar's grave, while watching in the car a DVD documentary about football and the cartels. Then we go to his brother’s house to meet his brother Roberto. So weird. We arrive at his house which has kind of been turned into a museum to Pablo. We walk around hearing stories and then meet Roberto, have our photos taken and get a signed wanted poster! Very weird, we are not really sure what to make if it all. Apparently all the proceeds are going towards medical research! The oddest experience yet.
Laurence doing a Pablo impression!

Laurence doing a Pablo impression!

How weird

How weird

on the boat!

on the boat!

Lunch is a local affair, but as we are out it starts raining cats and dogs and does not stop, even when we leave early morning it is still raining.
Don't see much more of Medellin due to the weather which is a shame as lots of people say it is a great city, but in torrential downpour you don't really want to go out!

Day 75- Friday 17.5.13
Medellin/ Covenas
Up early for a long drive day to Covenas. Leave the hostel for 5 am. All sleepily get in the truck. It is raining still from yesterday. Try and get some sleep but don't manage much. We pull over at 8am for breakfast at a local side street café and do a shop for our evening meal.
After a long drive, we stop for a late lunch, I have fish and Loll has chicken with the usual rice, plantain and salad.
We arrive just at sunset in Covenas at a hostel we are camping at. We are actually now in the Caribbean. We set up the tents for the last time. It is so hot within about 5 mins we are sweating away- Very different from the heavy cold rain this morning.
We have a great BBQ, with loads of food and a few beers. It is still so hot before we go to bed we all (apart from Domingo) go for a night swim. The water is like a bath it is so warm. Really calm and lovely just to float in the dark. After a long day on the truck a refreshing end to the day.

Day 76- Saturday 18.5.13
Covenas/ Cartagena/ Playa Blanca
Pack up the tents for the last time and last drive in Gus to Cartagena. We store our bags at the hotel and take day packs to Playa Blanca.
We start our journey on a local bus, which gets really busy. People get on with shopping and it is handed to anyone with a free hand to hold it! We stop for about 20 mins near a market where the driver gets off and loads of street sellers get on to sell food and drinks.
Domingo, Adrian,Katie and Karen on the bus

Domingo, Adrian,Katie and Karen on the bus

The bus finally heads on its way. It is about an hour till the place we get off, which is then a short walk to a boat harbour. All these motor taxis are hassling us to use them to get to Playa Blanca, we walk on. We arrive at a port where we board this ferry that is powered by a small motor canoe strapped to the side. We get off the other side of the river, to lots more motor taxis wanting to take us to the beach. Domingo does a deal and we all hop on the back of these bikes. Very odd experience. The first road is a mud track so slow and easy but then when we get on the main road the bikes shoot off. I can't see anyone and it then dawns on me I have no idea where we are going, how long it is where everyone is. I then see Domingo and calm down. So long as he is in front of me that is ok. My guy then decides to overtake and again I cannot see anyone. About 25 mins later we turn off onto another dirt track sign posted Playa Blanca arrived at last! Everyone is ok.
can you call it a boat?

can you call it a boat?

motor taxis!

motor taxis!

We met a guy Alfonso on the bus who has been with us the whole journey and he lives in the area, he takes us to a friend who has hammocks and cabanas to hire. We check them out and decide on hammocks for the night.
What a beautiful beach. Turquoise water, white sand, great relaxation at the end of a busy few weeks.
Domingo sets up a slack wire (like a tightrope) and all the locals get really involved.
We eat a local dinner on the beach of fish, rice and plantain and have a few coco locos - a dink served in a coconut! It feels like our last proper night as a group together. What a great night. A really nice highlight to the end of our trip. We all crawl into our hammocks for a night under the stars.
coco loco anyone?

coco loco anyone?

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

Fun times

Fun times

Day 77- Sunday 19.5.13
Playa Blanca/ Cartagena
It is hot on the beach today. How lovely though to wake up from the hammock and go for a swim at 7 am. Although we have all been bitten quite badly, where my feet were sticking out the end of the hammock I have loads of bites on my feet and ankles
We spend the day chilling in the sun, swimming, reading books. Then we head back to Cartagena on the boat. All a bit crazy.
Our boat is at 3.30 so arrive to get on at 3. There is a small boat on shore to take you to a bigger boat. There was pandemonium to get on this boat, everyone just pushed their way on. We wait for the next boat. Second boat comes along we are first in line, but the guys can't even tie the boat up before everyone piles on again. Karen manages to get on but the rest of us don't, have to wait for the next one. Finally get in the boat and are taken to the big boat. We find seats on the top deck and wave goodbye to Playa Blanca. As we set off some dolphins jump by the side if the boat.
There is some music on the boat and a guy singing and dancing salsa. He then goes off and comes back about 15 mins later reincarnated as Michael Jackson himself! He does the whole dance routine to Dangerous to a load of applause and cheering. Never seen anything like it- It is hilarious. Finally we arrive in Cartagena port.
We all head out for our last meal as a group of 6 to a nice pizza place, but it is just very hot and we are all melting. It feels very odd as Katie and Domingo head off tomorrow to get Gus to Lima in 6 days!!! It is sad that another chapter has come to an end on our trip. We really enjoyed Dragoman and it will be strange back to just us two again!
Our last supper :-(

Our last supper :-(

Day 78- Monday 20.5.13
We say our goodbyes to Katie as her and Domingo need to leave early. A 6 day journey with a lot of driving. Unfortunately our walking tour starts before we get a chance to see Domingo.
We start out on our walking tour it is so humid after about 5 mins I am sweating, we walk around the old town, what a pretty city. But too humid! After 3 hour tour we are all ready for a cold shower.
streets of cartagena

streets of cartagena

streets of cartagena

streets of cartagena

Loll, Adrian and I all head out to a recommended ceviche restaurant, which is nice. Laurence and Adrian have ceviche and I have non ceviche.
We then do some research on Santa Marta and getting to Tyrona park for the next leg of our journey.
The 4 of us head out to dinner, a nice Mexican and a couple of drinks. Then Laurence bumps into the crazy man- George.
At this point I feel Laurence guest editor should write this but I want to publish this and will get him to update it.......
Basically George was very annoying and wouldn't leave us alone.

Day 79- Tuesday 21.5.13
One of the funniest days ever! We are all booked to go to the mud volcano, recommended to us by Katie and Domingo. We all jump in the bus and head south to the volcano. It starts raining on the way, but luckily stops as we arrive at the volcano. The first site of it is not what we were expecting. It looked like a mountain of earth with a crater of mud in it!
We all change into swimwear and head up the steps to the crater. It looks like a massive hole of mud! But apparently it is an actual volcano.
Mud Volcano or a pile of mud?

Mud Volcano or a pile of mud?

We all one by one climb into the pit where we get a massage. More like having mud rubbed all over us, and then lie/ float/ mess around for about 20 mins. It is really odd feeling as you can't sink in it, it is very buoyant and you can't move very well in it. More and more people were getting in and it was feeling quite crowded so we decided to get out which took another 10mins to get to the stairs out, which were all covered in mud! Manage to get out and head to the lagoon where you are washed off by these ladies. They literately douse you in water and then take off your bikini top, and bottoms! While about 5 other people are getting the same treatment. The blokes get their swim trunks whipped off too! The only saving grace is the water comes up to above your waist and everyone has water in their eyes from being doused in water. We then went for a shower and changed. The whole experience was hilarious, and not quite what I was expecting. But glad we did it and a nice last group activity.




After we are clean and dry and dressed we go to lunch, we stop on the beach for a typical Colombian affair. Fish, Loll had chicken, rice, plantain, salad- yummy.
We get dropped off back in Cartagena and sort out getting to Santa Marta tomorrow. Book our hostel and bus and head out to the bank. Who should we bump into but crazy man, who wants to walk to the bank with us!!! I am freaking out at this point, but Laurence says it will be OK. It is fine and we manage to shake him off, by saying we need to meet our friends.
Adrian, Karen, Loll and I all meet for our last meal together. It feels very strange to say goodbye again and will miss the group. We have had a great 3 weeks together and had some amazing experiences.
Safe journey home Karen. Adrian we will see you in Bogota!

Apologies all for the delay in publishing, we have had many tech issues (my phone being one). We wanted to add more photos but again can't get things off the camera properly :-(

Posted by Ford and Bates 15:22 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

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