Tuesday, June 27, 2006

into columbia...

i have now arrived in Bogota, the capital of Columbia- its amazing. After slowly (and embarassingly) negoiating my way through customs, airport security and finding a hostel with some room room i went out to explore. i spent my first night dancing into the wee small hours with a guy from the hostel and loads of locals in a salsa bar. We seemed to be the only 'gringos' and as such were something of a novelty, i didn't stop dancing or talking all night long!! the following morning, feeling somewhat worse for wear i only managed to watch the england match (which here began at 10am) and then go back to bed for several hours; don't worry, and by the evening however i was feeling alot more like going out and so there was a repeat of the previous night, a little tamer however. Bogota seems alot more like a european city, there are clean tree lined streets, which are blocked from traffic om sundays so the population can cycle through the streets; there are far fewer beggars than anywhere else i've been; the people are incredibly friendly not to mention tall and beautiful!; the city has many pretty buildings and large plazas where people just seem to hang out.
today i have been to perhaps my strangest place yet. i visited a cathedral 30km north of the city, not so strange yet but...................it was entirely carved from salt.....................and 150m underground inside a mine!! despite being a bit of an odd location it was totally beautiful and really peaceful. We had a brilliant guide who explained everything very interestingly and there were no other travellers there just a school trip so we virtually had the place to our selves! i've put my photos on here- i know they are dark, i was having a brain storm whilst using my camera but you get the idea- i know, i'm a spaz. and yes i did lick the wall just to make sure it was actually salty- it was, very.

Art or porn?

This is the huge monument in the centre of 'parque del Amor' in central Lima. Surrounding this is a wall of mosaics with words of wisdom absolutely all over it. translations are as follows: 1. she has a bottom large and beautiful 2. when open your eyes and open your heart. These were the best i thought but there were hundreds!! what do you think?- its a favourite place to have your wedding photos taken for the people of Lima??!!

Arriving in and leaving Lima

we had a flying visit to Lima, staying only 2 nights before i left to fly up to columbia and Mike flew home to England. After roughing it in the jungle for a few days, and then spending 23 hours on a bus we decided we needed a bit of luxury and checked into a really exclusive hotel! it was lush, the biggest bed i have ever seen in my life.......with soft pillows!! The best, hottest shower and we even had a jacuzzi in our room! We turned up fairly smelly with our rucksacks so fitted in like a dream. Later that evening we returned home only slightly drunk and tried to smuggle a giant pizza into our room, classy!

Pre-Inca Trail

After crossing into peru we headed for a town called Chachapoyas, where it is easy to organise tours to many of the nearby ruins which date from before the Inca period. We decided to book a 4 day trek which ended at the huge ruin of Kuelap.
The first day we went to a place called city of the dead, this is was a burial place and there were many sarcophagus's carved into the side of the mountain. The day didn't begin well we had to be at the tour office for 7am inorder to have breakfast and leave for 8am, so at 9.30am and with no sign of leaving we began to wonder why we had got up so early- our guide was sick and so the manager was just a little stressed. Off we set without a guide and the tour manger in the boot of the car, only to be driven round town in order to find a guide. Eventually one was found and we left Chachapoyas- we didn't get to far before our taxi pulled over, a problem with the car? i got out to have a look and unreassuringly found the driver tightening the wheels with a spanner!! After that short interlude we were off again and finally after an hour or so along dirt tracks we reached our first destination. We followed the guide down the steep side of a mountain to reach the town of the dead. I'm not sure what i was expecting but where we now found ourselves was on a narrow ledge hundreds of metres up surrounded by human bones (yes in real life its true), carvings, the remnants of an ancient civilisation and absolutely noone else. They were very interesting but the most spectacular bit was the location, the cliffs were absolutely massive and the scenery stunning- the walk back up the hill however was tough! After lunch we headed to our next destination, Karyhi where many more huge sarcophagus are carved into the mountain, similar to town of the dead but less bones. Our driver then took us to a huge flat bottomed valley where we were dropped off and began the walk to where we would be staying that evening. We knew it would be basic accomodation............ it was a mud hut, no floors, no lighting, no toilet- i had to poo in a hole in the ground! the evening was spent beside a camp fire talking to the guide and looking at the stars.
The second day we walked for most of the day to a small town where we would spend the night. The walk was very pretty, through much green jungle. We walked along a stony broken path which is apparently the main road along the valley! Many men driving mules laden down with big sacks passed us, going much faster than me i must add. We reached our destination mid afternoon and so spent the rest of the afternoon watching the locals play football. Our accomodation tonight was equally basic except we now shared our ´bathroom´ with the rest of the town and a large population of flies. This town didn't have any electricity either and we spent the evening playing cards by candlelight.
The third involved a steep climb through the mountains and so to make it a bit easier we got to ride............ mules, have you ever ridden a mule? its a totally passive experience, it doesn't matter what you do they simply continue to walk along and just follow each other, but they can navigate the steepest paths that even i would struggle up. Thankfully at the top of the mountain was our taxi driver to take us to our hotel, with hot water!!! wow.
Our final day was to visit Kuelap, i have never seen such a massive ruin, It is a whole walled city that is thousands of years old; i struggled to comprehend just how long it had been there. And the best thing was that in this huge ruin there was not a single other tourist, cool eh! i was very impressed with the ruins, alot more than i expected, just from the sheer size of them and their stunning location. in fact we spent several hours wandering around them with our guide before we sent off to walk back down to the next town and back to civilisation. definately worth it!

Monday, June 26, 2006

don't worry

hello no worries i'm not dead or lost or kidnapped i've just been busy to write much recently, but i promise my recent adventures will be available soon. i'm in Bogata, Columbia at present heading up to the carribean for a little holiday. chao k

Friday, June 16, 2006

...and into deepest darkest Peru

well i have left Ecuador just when it looks like they may do better than England in the world cup!!! Football fever well and truely took off just before we left it was quite amazing just how popular it is over here.
Our passage into Peru wasn´t just any border crossing, we decided to take a new route through the mountains/jungle which meant that after 12 hours of travelling over unmade roads we had gone about 100miles!. Our journey began in Vilcabamba at 6am when we got on a local bus travelling south, we got about 45 minutes into our journey before the road surface had become mud. At midday, 6 hours later we arrived at our first town and time to change buses, this time for one with no sides and only wooden beaches inside destined for the border town of La Balsa. At La Balsa we had to go through Ecuadorean immigration, this was a friendly man sat behind a make shift desk in a wooden hut on the side of a dirty track! We then walked across the bridge that separated Ecuador from Peru through 'no mans land' towards the collection of huts on the other side. ¨Bienviendos a Peru¨ read the sign that welcomed us, now all we haveto do is officially check in to the country, how difficult can that be?
The first 'building' we went into was customs, no nothing to declare- we need to see the guy next door at immigration, so off we wander. The next guy tells us that we need to down to a building beside the river to fill in a form. again we wander off along the dusty track into the bright sunshine. At the next building we are indeed in the correct place, we need to fill in a form and take it to the first office. Once again in the first office our forms are stamped and we are told we must return them to the office beside the river, so much to the amusement of the local children we return to the building by the river and are given our entry visas. We now cramp into a taxi with several locals and head for the nearest town which is only a 2 hour drive away! Along the way we travel down perhaps only a few miles of tarmac roads, the chief purpose it seems for roads in this area is as a flat surface for drying recently picked coffee beans, so we swerve our way towards San Ignacio around piles of coffee beans and huge potholes and arrive at 6.30pm after exactly 12 hours of travelling. very tired.

horse riding

Whilst in Vilcamba, as well as just chilling out i have been horse riding. it was totally amazing we trekked up into the mountains surrounding the town to a waterfall. Our group consisted of me and mike, 2 german girls, an austrailian girl and our guide, the trek took all day from 9 ish til about after 5. needless to say my bum was more than a little tender!!! also needless to say the day didn't pass without me being a bit of a spaz!- we got up early to have breakfast at the hostal and then rushed back to our room to get ready, we were just leaving the room when the guide picked us up in a taxi to take us to the centre of town to get on the horses. it was in the centre of town after the taxi had driven away that i realised that i hadn't changed my shoes since breakfast time and i was still wearing my flip flops !!! (duh, yes very amusing for everyone else as i had to leg it back to the hostal). once on the horses we climbed up the steep mountains away from the town towards the nearby national park called, Podocarpus; the views were spectacular and the skies were totally clear, we could see for miles. At the very beginning i was asked if i had any experience, ¨yes a little¨ i had replied, well my horse was mental!- all it wanted to do was gallop, everywhere. which to begin with was a little scary but fun once i got used to it. We trekked for several hours until we got to a small stream where we dismounted and had a small packed lunch. The austrailian girl, was by this time becoming a little annoying to say the least- she had clearly never been near a horse in her life let alone got on one, she was scared of heights and so spent most of the morning screaming at the heights and whimpering when the horse broke into any thing more than an amble (i personally felt a little sorry for the horse as she was not exactly a small size!!).After lunch we got back on the horses and rode to the waterfall, at the top of which we had to dismount and climb down an almost vertical cliff face to the bottom; but it was worth it, the waterfall was beautiful- the climb back up to the top was a bit sweaty however. Back on the horses we rode back down the mountain into town, my horse galloping at every opportunity and at one point a got stuck in a gate (!) my horse not realising that my kness are slightly wider than itself, my knees and inner thighs are now black with bruises!! good fun though.

Ecuador 2 Poland 0

football hits ecuador- katie and mike are unable to find a bar (!) in which to watch the match until half time (duh).

Monday, June 12, 2006

The land where fairytales belong

Having left Cuenca we have arrived in a tiny village called Vilcabamba. Yesterday during our journey i was really hoping it would not disappoint, as the guide books rave about it. We had to change buses at the nearest town, an hour away to get on a tiny local bus and trundle along the bumpy road through the valley. This bus journey was spectacular, the huge mountains have the lushest green pastures (the colour you see for only a few weeks at the beginning of spring in britain) and tall, tall trees; beyond which all i can see is fluffy white clouds. If as a child i believed in princesses, knights on white horses and dragons (if!!, when) they would certainly have lived here. On arrival in the tiny village we dicovered own hostal was a mile out of town so we set of walking, as we did the clouds began to gather, oh dear, but instead of rain, a huge rainbow appeared in front of us ans seemed to end on the doorstep of the hostal. and as we checked in the clouds cleared and we watched the most lovely sunset across the valley. our plan now is to chill out for a few days before crossing the border. Tommorrow we're going horse riding in the nearby national park to a pretty waterfall, and i might look for fairies at the bottom of the garden this evening!

the last train in Ecuador- i wonder why!

finally i have left Quito, mike and i are heading south towareds Peru. The first town we got to was called Alausi, the prinicpal reason that people go there is for the 'spectacular' train ride down the steep edge of a mountain named the devils nose. This too is the reason we went there. The little town is beautiful perched on the edge of the aforementioned mountain. We had bumped into an old couple at the bus station at quito and they told us they owned a hostal and would we like to stay, so we agreed. On arrival we were not disappointed, the hostal was a brand new log cabin set on the hillside above the town and we we had it all to our selves! We planned to take the train the following day and so just had tea and a little wander around town that evening. The following morning we walked into town along the railway line to wait for the train, we waited and waited, waited some more and then had lunch, afterwhich we returned to the station to wait some more! the train arrived - four and a half hours late by which time the sky had clouded over and looked rather menacing. The train is a total tourist magnet and so we clamboured on top with several hundred other tourists and hung on as the train rumbled off. i have to say the descent down the mountain was less than spectacular, average i'd probably say and then on the way back it began to rain; so now i'm not only cold and a little bored but wet too! wonderful. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the town in the drizzle, it was actually very pretty and i was warmer now i wasn't clinging to the roof of a train. The following mornig we left for a village called ingapirca, which has some 'impressive' inca ruins. Unfortunately this excursion too didn't live up to my expectations! The village was tiny with one restaurant (this was the best thing) where we had both lunch and tea, the hostal was fairly scabby (no toilet paper or hot water, what is a girl to do) and the 'impressive' inca ruins looked a bit like a sand castle! we left very early the next morning for Cuenca to watch the first Ecuador football match and i spent the next 2 days in the bathroom!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

una vista finale de quito

Yo os prometo eso es la solo partida en español. Esta en memoria de mi tiempo aqui en Ecuador. Los fotos son mis vistas de Quito y espero que os les gustais.
Mis cosas favoritos a Quito son; las vistas de las montañas. En todos partes de la ciudad es posible mirarles y pienso ellas son muy espectular. Tambien les edifcios a Quito Historical son bonitos. Creo la mejor bonita lugar es la plaza grande, tengo muchos fotos de eso.
He descubierto que toda la gente son simpaticas y agradables pero todas son un poca pequenas. Vilma, mi professor de español es muy divertida y entonces yo sonrio cada dia. Luisa y Jorge, mis padres ecuatorianos son amables y ellos me atienden buenos.
Todos el departmento de Oftalmologia es util aunque cuando yo no hablo español. He encontrado mi trabajo muy intressante si un poco difficile a veces.
He disfrutado mi tiempo aqui y he disfruado a hacer Quito mi hogar. Espero con illusion a viajar todo en sud america y espero que todo mi viaje es el mismo.
chao. k (translations on request, photos coming but slowly!!)

Monday, June 05, 2006

15km is a long way!

well you'll be pleased to know that i did in fact survive my run and even managed to finish it. in a very slow time however, of 1hour 40 mins! this is probably due to the altitude, the heat, the hostile conditions and not of course due to my spectacular lack of training or any self discipline! Mike and Jose also finished (yes, they were both faster than me) but Griet failed to finish, so you can see it was actually quite difficult! the race ended in the football stadium of Quito, with the girls, old men and disabled people starting 90 minutes before the others, which actually worked quite well, as it meant that i had finished in time to see the winner run into the stadium (he managed a time of 47mins!!) there were loads of people cheering us on as we ran through the streets and even more in the stadium at the finish, even a live band; it was a little like a carnival, despite the tiredness it was good fun and i might even take my running shoes with me as i continue on my way. i have moved out of Luisa's today and tommorrow i leave for somewhere south of here. its a bit strange leaving Quito as i've sort of got used to it being my home for the last 2 months, but i'm glad to start actually travelling.
Jennifer arrived here yesterday in a flying visit before heading off to Honduras to finsh her travels, it was wicked to see someone from home. and we celebrated by drinking as many cocktails as we could, therefore spending this morning walking around the equator site slightly hungover! the equator site, was i thought overrated- i'm not sure what i expected other than a line but it was just fairly expensive for not very much in return. we took lots of silly photos however so it wasn't that bad.