Quitting Quito

We are due to move on today from Quito. We have been looked after my my friend Marissa’s cousins, Ana and Lorena. We were supposed to get hold of her sister too, but there seems to have been some confusion and it never happened. The first night Tim and I met Ana in a restaurant in the New Town part of Quito and afterwards her cousin and boyfriend drove us around the city, gave us a tour of the old city and finished off in the Bohemian quarter for a late night drink.

Sunday came and Ana called us at the hostel and asked us if we would like to go and see the “Mitad del Mondo”, or to us English speakers, the Equator! It was a short bus ride out of Quito and we got to stand either side of the northern and southern hemispheres – very cool. They have a monument, built by the French which unfortunately is about 200 metres out, only discovered by the advent of GPS! We watched a Colombian band (there are huge amounts of Colombians who have moved to Ecuador) which was excellent.

Photos of Quito and Mitad Del Mondo (Equator), Ecuador

Source.

Today we head to Baños which is a holiday spa city south of Quito. We should be able to head into the jungle from there and maybe go white water rafting too. We return to Quito later in the week where hopefully we will go to one of the most important salsa clubs in South America before we head off back through Peru to the border with Chile.

Hola Ecuador!

After arriving back to Bogota yesterday we were told that in Colombia on your last night one has to go out. In usual Colombian fashion that involves going to a club and then a house party, before retiring early in the morning. The club was a busy place in the north of the city, and the house party at an appartment of a girl who is the only female helicopter pilot in Colombia. Colombia seems to have quite alot of pilots, not sure why though but it might have something to do with “Charlie”! ;-).

Anyway, our flight was at 9.30 am so we needed to leave for the airport at 6.30 am to get there on time. Hence, arriving home drunk at 5 am probably isn’t the best plan! Andrea and Matt promised that they would drive us to the airport, and Tim and I crashed for an hour. At 7.50 am I woke suddenly and for no apparent reason. Panicking I ran to wake Tim up who just said, “Oh, it’s 6 o’clock yeah”? My reply of “I think we are in the shit”, actually made him move faster than I have ever seen and we made it downstairs for  taxi by 8.10. We told the taxi driver that we were “extremely late” and we could make it worth his while if he could get us to the airport pronto. Bless him, he drove like Juan Pablo Montoya and we made it just in time. Got stung for $50 US dollar airport departure tax which I’m sure is too much, but we didn’t have much choice but to pay it. We pushed our way through the baggage and security checks and legged it to be one of the last on the flight. Total time for check-in on an international flight – 20 minutes! Rock on!!

Our flight was pretty full and full of the local Quito football team called “Liga Quito”, this countries equivalent to Arsenal or Chelsea really. We passed them on the way out all talking to the TV cameras. We have now made it to a really nice hostel in Quito called the “Secret Garden” voted by  hostel website as the best hostel in South America. Seems pretty good so far.

Tim and I have decided that we will miss Colombia and wish that we had had more time there. The people in Colombia are what makes it, always friendly and wanted desperately to prove that their country isn’t as bad as everyone thinks. Loved it and both of us would go back there given half the chance. Is apparently very easy to find work teaching English where you get paid very well. I think Tim was half considering it!

Anyway, all safe and well and another stamp in the passport.

Arrived in Santa Marta

Arrived safely in Santa Marta after a fairly hairy bus journey caused by the typical Colombian bus driver being over zealous, or alternatively – crazy! Went to sleep for most of the 5 hours of the journey from Cartagena which seemed to help. At least the bus had air conditioning otherwise the heat probably would have driven us mad.

Santa Marta is another fairly large port and seems to be a pretty deep water harbour considering the size of the cargo ships that have been coming in day and night since we arrived. We have been trying to watch the cash a bit since Cartagena, so we negotiated a cut price deal in a hotel that is on the sea front. Was a cheaper hostel in the guidebook, but Tim went to have a look whilst I watched the bags and he thought it looked a bit scummy.

Had a guide come round this morning, organised by the lady on reception in the hotel. We wanted to visit Tiarona Park the big national park here, but the cost of 50,000 pesos for the day we felt was a bit steep. We thought about going to a beach about 25 minutes walk from here which is the beah mentioned in the book “The Gringo Trail” but decided that lazing in bed with a book was the better alternative!

With our flight back to Bogota tomorrow we haven’t really got much done here at all, but that is mainly because we spent far too much time in Cartagena.

Colombia we have decided in not in anyway as set up for travelers compared to, say Peru. The guide books we have is really out of date and often restaurants and hostels simply don’t exist anymore. Bars and clubs we only find through word of mouth and it has made it altogether more of a challenge to get around here. There are great business opportunities especially in starting a good hostel in Bogota near barrio 93 and the university.

Anyway, not much else to report. Flight back to Bogota tomorrow and then onto Quito the next day. Will probably send the next report from there!

Still dossing around Cartagena

Well we are still not doing much in Cartagena. Yesterday we went to one of the islands off Cartagena called Isla Del Encanto. Spent much of the day lazing around in the sun and sleeping in hammocks. The end of the day called for a 50 minute speed boat ride in nasty conditions back to Cartagena.

Even as someone used to the sea was starting to feel a little sea sick! Anyway, I’m today a little sore and bruised from the bumpy ride, but nothing a good bed wouldn’t cure!

Cartagena is a beautiful city but a little odd. It seems like it still has throw-backs to it’s “pirate past”, and many of the bars have an odd concoction of old men (many Europeans) and younger women. Tim and I reckon that they are either whores or husband hookers but we aren’t sure!

Hostal we are staying in is ok, but lacks hot water. Saying that though I doubt we would use the hot water as the cold water is rather refreshing. People who run the Hostal Baluarte seem friendly and trustworthy. They organised our tour to the islands for us too. Apparently is best to get a taxi back from the old town though, but we haven’t had any problems so far, touch wood. Most people seem pretty friendly. Colombians seem to go out of their way sometimes to be as helpful and friendly as possible. Sometimes I think that they desperately want to prove to people that the general image of Colombia is wrong. not that you don’t see some scumbags around though, but you’d see the same in London too.

Today we visited the fort of San Felipe that was successfully taken by “the pirate”, Sir Francis Drake. It is odd to hear people talk of Drake in that way here, but I guess to them he was. I guess that “One man’s pirate is another countries hero”, similar to the “terrorist v freedom fighter” quotation!!

View the photos of Cartagena, Colombia.

We plan to head to Santa Marta tomorrow. The bus journey takes 3-4 hours just along the coast. Still haven’t sorted out tickets though, or where to buy them, but we do know that they go twice a day even on a Sunday!

Hope everyone is ok at home, or to my travelling friends – safe travels!