South America April - June 2010, Eastern Europe 2009

For the sake of keeping all blog posts in one place, going to keep this Europe travel blog page rolling...



Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 64

Hi,

Home tomorrow - mom&dad, flights in a 430 so see you around 6?

Bye for now!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Montreal

This is the worst keyboard ever but I am going to battle through it for a quick post. Arrived in Mtl three days ago, and man it feels good to be back in Canada and back in montreal. Getting into the Pearson airport in Toronto with people speaking to you in English was glorious. It was a long trip home, Buenos Aires to Santiago to Toronto to Montreal, then express bus, metro and a 15 min walk, but I made it! the first day was a complete bummer because I lost a lot of money hta fell out of my wallet I guess when I paid for something and had my hands full. I then decided to treat myself and get a haircut. Also managed to hang out with Katie, my old Montreal roommate, so that was cool. After having met a group of girls at the hostel, three of us, myself, a kiwi and a Parisien, went to a beer tasting festival for a few hours. Came back ate dinner and talked in a mix of languages, Spanish, English, French. Good times. I am loving being able to use my french and I get to al lot particularly at this hostel where a lot of people are from France, all the girls in my room are.

Yesterday also managed to go on a big reminiscing tour of the city, walked everywhere, up the hill to mcGill down St. Catherines and back up to the Plateau. It was the best day, had it all to myself and the weather was amazing: warm and sunny.

Today I rent a bike I think and bike around the city, maybe pick up a new book, all weather depending though.

Anyways thats it for now, see you in 4 days! Happy Saturday!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Goodbyes to the South

Last full day and night in Buenos Aires. Last few days have been action packed (relatively speaking), starting with the most insane antique market on Sunday. I have never ever seen so many antiques in my life! In San Telmo, one of the barrios (neighbourhoods) in BA there is a market that fills the famous square on Sundays. But not only does it fill this square (as we thought), oh no, it goes 6 or 7 long blocks down the street, pretty much back into downtown BA and spills into all these crazy side markets that are hidden within adjacent buildings. Sometimes more than one level high. Mom and aunt Rita, you two would have died.

So, yes, I did spend some money and got more STUFF to weigh my bag down but honestly it was hard to hold back, especially spending the whole day out there. Only disappointing factor was that because every tourist in town had turned up for it, everything was fairly overpriced. Both Owen and I couldnt believe they could charge so much for everything, because there was SO much of it, but we came to the conclusion that everyone is secretly a hoarder and wants to keep their stuff, or because itś only once a week, they need to make their money in one go by asking more.

Anyways overall it was an interesting, yet exhausting day.

Yesterday, we caught the 3 hr ferry to Colonial, Uruguay. Colonial was very pretty, reminded be of an old Italien town (had originally been Portugese) with the scooters to boot. Again things were expensive because it is a tourist town and surprsingly (i dont know why I found it surprising) but Uruguay isnt that poor, compared to say Bolovia so things arent cheap. We almost didnt make it ebcause I forgot my passport and had to run all the way back to the hostel and then back to the ferry, which now I am sore, making it with only a few minutes to spare.

Today Owen goes to skate, I r-organize my bag, and we go to the best steak house in BA for the last supper.

Cant wait to get back to Canada!

Jess

Friday, May 28, 2010

Tango

Owen and I just came back from a really amazing tango show at a very famous space of Av, 25 de Mayo. I will post pics soon but imagine smokey atmosphere with great wine, legs flying short skirts and lots of female skin, good looking dark handsome men, an orchestra, dark lights, a maitre d in black and whites, show lights, theatre costumes. We were definately amazed and impressed and so glad we attended. We have found this really great restaurant in San Telmo, which appears close on map but is really 45 mins walking from our hostel, it is very old and has everything that I would appetimize as European. Last night owen and I went there for a bottle of great wine, housemade cheeze and meat (spicy salami, bolognese, smoked thin ham slices, ravioli and cheey tomatoes. It is eating so extravagently for a quater of the price. I especially love being able to splurge on a bottle of wine with dinner, fairly unaffordable in Van. Today we also visited the famous Ba cemetary full of notorious BA families and scandalous policians. It was unbelivable to see how manu dead people could fit into probably a sqaure acre of the ultra extravagent "death houses" (will post to describe). Here lies Evita and almost all of the past presidents from the past 100 yrs.

Tomorrow Owen is going to check out the skatepark and I might do some shopping but am seriosly trying to remind myself I have no job and funds are dwindling.

Hope to hear some Van news.

Jess

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Arrival

We have arrived to the final destination! Well for Owen at least. Wow big city, busy city. Reminds me a lot of New York, a lot of people and cars filling the streets, big posters for plays and shows going on, giant advertising screens etc. This is all of course mixed in with over a 100 yr old buildings and spanish everywhere. Can wait to check out the city and am glad we have plenty of time to do so. Our hostel is massive, kind of like a hotel, has all the amenities and luckily we are in only a 6 person dorm room.

It was so strange booking my hostel in Montreal because there wasnt one option downtown mtl that was less than twice the cost of a night in a hostel down here, guess its all a part of coming back to reality.

how are things in Van?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hello BA

Today Owen and I went on a big mission to get to the zoo in Mendoza, which doesnt appear to exist but we got to walk for a long time through this massive park in the eastern part of town. Was a neat park palm trees, camping, kind of reminded me of the endowment lands by UBC as it has a university located within it and big wide streets lined with trees and a walking path. Yesterday was fun, Owen and I checked out a wine tour starting at 2pm, which took us to an olive oil factory, two wineries and an artisan chocolate/ liqueur factory. To be honest, we both found the olive and chocolate factory to be much more exciting than the wineries, maybe because we got to test a bunch of different things rather than only two kinds of wines that were promptly sale pitched to you to purchase after you had tested them. One of the wineries was cool because it very old, the grandchild of the initial owner still ran the winery so it was neat to see how an old boutique winery operated. The major wine in Mendoza is Malbec, originally from France, but whose grapes grows best in Mendoza and is pretty much the only place in the world where Malbec grapes are grown. So you want to try some real Argentinian wine, try some Malbec.

Wine is also ridiculously cheap here, you can find it for $2-3 CA. Leather is another cheap item, I almost bought a pair of handmade leather boots the other day from this guy who dressed like Mad Max (they had old re-cycled tires for soles!) but alas they only had ones with ugly designs on it in my size. As I mentioned in a previous post, yesterday and the day before were national holidays here so everything was closed. Today, even though the holiday is over, everything is still closed! Pretty annoying but both Owen and I hope to do some shopping before we leave Buenos Aires. I think we also going to try to make it to Montevideo in Uruguay because supposedly there is a really great market where the ferry lets you off.

Tonight we leave for Buenos Aires on a 14 hr bus, the last one! Thank god. We were going to ball out and get the fancy bed seats but it was way to expensive so again we get the ghetto seats, oh well, last one!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anyways going to go enjoy the last of our few hours in beautiful Mendoza (probably the nicest and cleanest city we´ve been to so far), talk soon.

Jess

Ps. swelling is gone, finally!!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I am so beautiful in the morning. Swollen face action shot.











Mendoza "Wine Country" Argentina

Hi,

Last night Owen and I arrived to Mendoza, Argentina after a 7 hour bus trip crossing the beautiful snow filled moutains of the Andes that separate Chile and Argentina. We spent two nights in Santiago, a very European-ish city to see Geoff off on his flight back home. Santiago was fun lots to see, its a massive city, but the food was a bit lacking. What really stood out was how much meat places a central role in the diet of most Chileans, I either had to eat meat of suck it up and eat salad for days. The best was the pile of meat that you could get, which of course came with wine.

I,m pretty excited to do a wine tour in the next few days think we might stay two more nights here to fit some more things in (lots of activities to do here). This all will be done, however, only face stops swelling and I stop being covered in the craziest itchiest hives all over. Last night was hell I couldnt sleep all night because I was so itchy everywhere it was horrible. Both eyes ae swollen but almost one was swollen shut this morning it is so gnarly. I will try and post a pic I took two hours ago its gross but funny. I have NEVER had an allergic reaction this bad before (im not even allergic to anything...) and have no idea where its from but I took double allergy medicine and swelling has gone down a bit but am keeping the shades on today for sure. should probably go to the doctor but it is of course a national holiday here today and tomorrow so everything is closed.

Also lost owen last night. We rolled with some Brit boys who were going to a hostel and ended up in separate cabs that took us to two separate hostels (owen of course had allergy medicine that would have been helpful). but all is good now, after some confusion, Im now sitting next to him. Anyways have been hearing the weather at home is beach weather! here is cold still, but at least sunny. It is strange being somewhere where the leaves are all yellow and orange and falling on the ground. feel like ive missed a season altogether, especially since the flora is so much like what we have at home, except for the token palm tree here and there.

Anyhoo will let you know how the activities and swelling go here in the next few days.

Love Jess

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

La Serena, Chile

Hello Chile.

A welcome reprieve from the ghettoness of Bolivia. We spent the last 3 days travelling through the Bolivian salt desert, where we saw blindingly white salt fields, aquamarine blue lagoons, flamingos, and epic sunsets while soaking in hotsprings surrounded by geysers and ice filled lagoons. The temperature was bitterly cold, I would guess minus 15 at its worst, but probably colder with windchill. Waking up in the overnight bus to Uyuni where we began our trek and looking out the window of the bus, we were oh so pleasantly surprised to find that it was SNOWING outside. yes snowing. after having found our tour company and having layered up in the unheated breakest place we were sitting at, we were presented with the option of either cancelling our trip or postponing it due to the snow. the town hadnt seen snow in 5-6 years, so the 5000m above sea level passes were supposed to be sketchy. long story short we made it after almost having to come back after we then confronted a major sandstorm where the 4x4´s windows were in jeopardy from flying rocks, we made it to Chile where we then hopped on a 17hr train to La Serena Chile. anyways owen needs to computer will update soon.

jess

Friday, May 14, 2010

To the Copa, Copacabana

Bolovia! We arrived yesterday am after an overnight bus that was supposed to be direct from Cusco to Copacabana, although they ended up droppping us off on the side of the street at 6 am to be picked up by a rough looking van that crammed us all in, and then another van once we got across the Peru- Bolivian border. Getting to Copacabana was a relief as it is a remarkably quiet town that sits on Lake Titicaca, one of the highest lakes in the world. We are currently sitting at 3200m above sea level and still finding it hard to breathe, particularly after trying to do any excercise or lugging your bag up 4 flights of stairs. The lake is beautiful blue and very large, almost looks like the ocean. Owen, Geoff and I got a great view after we hiked up the mtn for half an hour to reach the town cemetray for sunset. Yesterday also entailed a lot of sleeping as we have all become very burnt out. I thought for sure I would be really sick after the trek and overnight buses, where we had barely slept. Owen also suffered from the flu while we were away on the trek and is still recuperating. I have also self prescribed myself amoxicillin for a possible bladder infection ( i researched online!) as no prescriptions are necessary in Peru (and no clinics were open), sketchy! but actually it seems to all have worked out, so hopefully from now on we will all be healthy and well.

Next step for us is to get on a bus sometime today to go to La Paz, and then afterwards head down to the salt fields which are supposed to be amazing. Heard the weather at home is nice! Its sunny here but frigid at night, can´t believe I have gone back into winter, goodbye tan...

Talk soon.

Jess

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Agua Calientes, Peru - Just Finished Inca Trek!!

Hi!

Currently just completed the four day Inca Trek to Machu Picchu. Pretty incredible. The trek started early early in the morning (or night???) of the 8th. We were to meet our tour group in Cusco the biggest city close to Machu Picchu to be picked up by bus at 4am to start our mission to one of the seven wonders of the world. The bus took about an hour and 45 mins to get to the starting point of the trek, Kilometre 82. Our group consisted of 12 trekkers, two guides, and 18 porters (including a cook) to carry all of the tents, chairs, gas, food, etc to each campsite. By the end of the first day I knew this trek was going to be so much better than the Lost City trek, well maybe a different kind of trek than the Lost City. The trail was actually well established, our guides were well trained (one of the them had gone to school for 4 yrs to be a guide) and had studied the Inca trail and sites to be able to provide us with intricate detail and knowledge about the incas, the way they lived, and the history behind their kingdom.

The first day was very easy only an hour climb at the end of the day. We were completely spoiled arriving to the break/ camp sites having lunch or dinner waiting for us (3 course meals) with our tents already set up and hot water and soap waiting for us. We also received big applauses upon our arrivals to these spots from the porters, which is ironic because they completed the trail during the day in way faster time carrying approx. 25 kilos of weight on their backs. It was almost an embarassment for them to be applauding us because they worked so hard getting up before us, carrying our stuff, completing the trail wayyy before us and then going to bed after all us. I felt like a pretty big rich spoiled gringa.

Day two was the hardest, took us 10 hrs to complete 16km, having hiked up to 4200 m above sea level to reach Dead Woman´s pass. The climb was long (3 hrs) but not too intense, but lots of up and downhill that day. Geoff and I decided to hire porters to that day as we had both the heaviest and third heaviest bags of the group. This was probably because 2/3 of the group had hired porters for the whole trek, which would have beena great idea but definitely more expensive. I was definately a bit disapointed in myself for how heavy my bag was but was so paranoid of being cold I slightly over packed, even bought a North Face jacket (which was completely worth it by the way). We also ended up having to carry our sleeping bag and mattress, which added to the weight. The third day included a lot of downhill and about 5 hrs walking but had some great views and inca sites. Today we got up at 3:30 am (oh yes) in the rain to start our trek to the final destination, Machu Picchu. We had to wait until 5:30 am for the gates to open to let us in, and then walked for about two hours to reach the biggest of all of the Inca sites (there were a lot of Inca sites along the way). It was absolutely beautiful arriving around 7:30, it was misty and fogged in ( think of Lord of the Rings cool misty eery-ness) but as the morning progressed the clouds cleared and the sun came out. Got some great photos and learned a lot from our guides Raoul and Marselino.

Overall the trip was amazing, we ate great food, did have to use bathrooms that were literally holes in the ground, but were grouped with a great set of people and guides that made the trek that much better. It felt really good to have trekked all that way (44km) to reach Machu Picchu, especially when we got to the site and saw all these tourists all decked out in hiking gear looking like phonies (having taken the train), while we were proudly sporting out mud and probably slight stench (only one shower stop along the way). We were also so much more fortunate because we got to see so many amazing inca sites along the way, some that could almost rival Machu Picchu, and got to hear about the Incas from someone who had grown up in the mountains and was extremely proud and knowledgeable about his ancestors and country.

Having seen the site, Geoff and I have reached Agua Calientes (there are hot springs here we´ll check out later today!) where we will meet our group again at a restaurant for our final goodbye lunch/ dinner before we catch the train back to Cusco at 9:30 pm.

Suffice to say we are both pretty beat having hiked the last four days but are looking forward to some hot showers and real beds once we get back tonight around 1-2 am. Tomorrow we will meet up with Owen who we had to leave in Cusco. Cusco is a really great small city, touristy, but with lots to do and great food (Owen is the champion restaurant finder).

Before Cusco (after taking an agonizing 24 hr bus from Lima) we had to say goodbye to Corey after having reached Lima, but not before we spent a few great hours checking out the nice part of Lima (Miraflores) and the boys have a good skate at the skate park off of the beach. So random we started talking to a bunch of kids at the park to ask where a good place to eat might be and they ended up coming with us to Chilis and one of the even knew of Geoff which is pretty crazy. Needless to say they were pretty stoked on the guys adding them to facebook immediately and one I think just msged Geoff already.

Anyways this is a long one but just wanted to say we survived and it was great. Can´t wait to post the pictures!

Jess

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sickness. Guayaquil, Ecuador.

We left Montanita yesterday on a whim after a few days of literally doing absolutely nothing for the past few days on the beach. The town had so many prospects of being a great party town where we might meet some people, tiki lounges, bars on the beach, best pina coladas I´ve ever had (and pisco sours - new drink i tried with egg white in it), however, the place had too many restaurants and bars and not enough people, leaving it all feeling pretty empty. All of the "hostels" were more like hotels, so no communal hang out places.

Leaving Mantanita, we drove along the coast which is mostly undeveloped with a few random cafe/ restaurant type places along the way that all look the same and a few token boats here and there. Coming into Guayaquil was like entering into a sea of tin roofed shacks, with fences made from anything that was picked off the street. Guayaquil is a dirty, busy, MASSIVE (8 million ppl plus), commercial town, very different from the more ´pretty´ capital city of Quito. I still have a hard time coming into cities because of the amount of garbage everywhere. Garbage on the side of the raod from people hucking it out their car window, garbage in the trees from being picked up by the wind, garbage floating in the discoloured river water and garbage burning (I saw tires and wires being burned yesterday) randomly by whomever on the street. Throwing away water bottles still hurts a little everytime too, particularly since we go through so many down here.

Anyways, understanding that Guayaquil was a commercial town, we went into the downtown core with not the highest expectations. The only really touristy thing to do in this city is check out the newly re-developed area of Malecon 2000 along the river. So we went, walked, saw the dirty big river carry plants down and out into the ocean. Looked at the cafeteria style restaurants, checked out the underground mall, overall not too exciting but was something to do. Coming back to the hostel I walk into my girl dorm to find the only girl I am sharing the room with on the floor, moaning, in the dark. I´ll admit, "Oh great" was one of my initial thoughts, after general concern of someone moaning on the ground, of course. Turns out she had bad food poisoning and was leaving the next morning to get on a plane to go to the Galapagos Isls. Oh great. Luckily, I think she had got most of her barfing and other, etc out earlier so I got to avoid listening to that all night. Unfortunately, I started to feel nauseous msyelf and was sure I had food poisoning. You see, I have to tell you these gruesome details, otherwise you wouldn´t get the full feel of the trip, right? Anyways luckily took some left over medicine of Owen´s from his fun experience with food poisoning in Taganga, Colombia and felt a million times better a bit later.

Last night was hard to sleep, it has not been that hot in a room the entire time on this trip. Guayanquil is extremely hot and muggy, I assume it has something to do with the river and wetlands, which I think could be likened to somewhere like Florida or Mississipi (although, Ive never been to either). So anyways that is why i am up at 7 am writing you this lovely post!

Today Owen and Corey go skate this massive skate park downtown, I might go watch or go check out a museum on the Malecon. Other than that we will just be mentally preparing for our 24 hour (yes 24 HOUR straight) bus ride to Lima. I´m dramatizing a bit, don´t think it will be that bad, just hope its not air cond to death like most of the other long trip buses. Last time I wore 2 flannels, a hoodie, had a fleece jakcet as a blanket, wore jeans and my woolie lumberjack socks, oh, and a toque. Was still a bit cold! Can´t wait for Geoff to bring the sleeping bags for our trip to Machu Picchu (and now as well for the bus rides).

Anyways, wish us luck and will say hello when we are in Lima before we head off to do the big Inca trek.

xoxo,
Jess

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mantanita, Ecuador - Surf Town

Hi,

Just want to say we made it to Mantanita, the biggest surf spot in Ecuador. Place is pretty sweet, biggest surf town I have ever been to. Pretty unbelievable how the whole town in becoming one big hostel and restaurant. Every single building is one of the two and more construction is going on. Think this place is going to become a big tourist spot in the future.

Right now the town is pretty quiet, not too many gringos and gringas, but i am sure by the weekend it will be bumping.

the surf looks pretty decent to me, however, i am by no means an expert. Think the late afternoon appears to be the best. Just went for a run on the beach and lots more people were out at this time. Tomorrow we will be renting some boards and probably for the next few days as we plan to stay here until Sunday. Its REALLY nice to get to warm weather, Quito was cold, like I wore a toque, two flannels and a jacket cold. Hoping to finnaly get a bit of a tan.

Other than both Corey and Owen are good. We had to leave Erin last night :( as we are having to move fast to get Corey to Lima by next wednesday. We also said goodbye to the Germans we have been travelling with for over 2 weeks.

Quito yesterday was fun, there are some amazing view points from all over the city as it falls within a mountain valley. Hiked up the winding and steep staircases of a church to see an amazing panoramic view of the city. Erin and I were unable to get the full view, however, due to a severe inability to get over a fear of heights. Our hostel and the one across the street also had some great terraces where you could watch over the city while having breakfast or drinking a beer.

Speaking of beer, Colombian beer is the worst so it was so nice to get somewhere where there is good BIG beer :).

Anyways will update in a few.

Jess

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quito, Ecuador

Hi all. Quick post.

We arrived in Quito two nights go after a looooong 13 hour day of travel by bus. Day time buses are way worse than the night ones because they stop everywhere picking up randoms off the street yelling the destination city out of the door and you tend to be awake for the majority of it. Prior to coming to Quito we spent a night in the university town of Popayan, Colombia. It was pretty nice, we ate great vegetarian and Mexican food. Owen Corey and I also got some sweet, but expensive, polaroid pictures from this famous old man who takes them in the park. We went out partying with the Germans and went to this pretty cool old locals bar where we got stared at so hard but got to experience something different. Afterwards we went to this really lame club, where everyone danced so old school, I got some pretty cool videos, which I deleted by accident but will try and post soon.

Anyways people are waiting for me to leave but I will maybe update tomorrow. Quito is really cool, amazing markets, awesome views of the City from bars, churches and the local mountainsides. Quito is also quite cool as we are in the mtns and 3000m above sea level. Anyways tonight me own and corey leave everyone for Puerto Lopez, the beach! so excited for that. update soon.

Hesse

Friday, April 23, 2010

Owen and Corey Are Addicted to Coke

Coca-cola that is. I think they´re averaging about 4 a day - it all has to do with the glass bottles it seems.

Bored waiting to take a bus thought I´d write another post. Just spent the last half hour organizing the next week and a bit just to learn that we have more than 65 hours by bus to complete by next monday the 3rd to get Corey to Peru in time for his flight. Pretty gnarly, not looking too forward to it.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Leaving Colombia

Hi,

Cannot believe we have been here over two weeks now. Time is passing way too fast. Doing Europe last year I think we had already fit in four countries by now, so South America is a very different kind of travelling. Most of the people we have met have been travelling for many months now in SA so Corey and I are really doing an expedited trip of this massive continent.

We have just spent the last 3-4 days in Medellin, a fairly big city in Colombia with a pop around 2.3 mil. It is very interesting coming to the city compared to the beach towns we´ve been hanging at previously. City´s have a very different traveller clientele or type of tourist. Generally, I think they can be summed up as coke tourists. The hostel we have been staying at is super nice ($11 per night btw), has a pool, bar, pool table, basketball court, etc, but the people staying here are a bit weird (besides ourselves of course, we are 100% normal). Scene at this hostel is to sleep til noon-2pm, hang around all day indoors with your laptop, and party like there is no tomorrow at night. A ton of the people it sounds like have been here for 2 plus weeks, not to check out the city, explore museums or go to any type of cultural attraction. nope, they are here to do cheap cocaine, allllll night.

Saying that, we have been having a good time, and to be honest, not been doing much art/ cultural/ museum crawling ourselves. Acting very much like we are on vacation, we´ve been hanging by the pool, drinking beers (75 cents), watching tv (ugh, i know), and generally lounging. I forgot to mention that we have been travelling with a trio of German guys since we went on the trek, so hanging a lot with them. The other night I actually stayed up til sunrise, talking and laughing at all of the funny German/ Dutch words. Think my favourite, Snoggen in de Coggen, is pretty funny, wish I could remember what it means. Yesterday we went out as a big skate possy (well I was the skate groupie) and went on the hunt for this big skate park near the stadium. We got a LOT of stares, particuarly Erin because she´s rad, don´t see too many tattied skater chicas around these parts. Unfortunately the skate mish was unsuccessful, with Ben our German friend getting his camera jacked, and skate park being behind the non skateboard barrier as there was a futbol game going on.

Tonight think the whole group is going to take a 10 hr bus to some smaller town on the coast as we´re ready to get out of the big city. From there, we will probably spend a day and then head to Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Ecuador is supposed to be really cheap but uses the American dollar as their currency. Hope the can/ america dollars are still at par!

Anyways hope all is well at home, and you aren´t getting rained on too hard. hah.

Hessica

Monday, April 19, 2010

Medellin, Colombia

Hi,

Quick update. We arrived in Medellin this am after a hr bus trip. We ended up extending our time in Taganga to recover and clean up (big laundry load) from the trek. Medellin is a big city and is colder than the coast. didnt get up to too much today, slept for a bit when we got in to the hostel and then trekked around the city a bit. Owen Corey and I went on a gondola up the hill to get a view of the city, pretty much takes you up to a ghetto of the city. we got harassed a bit being the only gringos so didnt stay too long. was worth it though as we got to see some places along the metro line that we want to check out tomorrow. I find it ironic that a lot of these developing countries have a more developed, sophisticated and cleaner metro system than our own.

Think we´re going to stay another night here and then figure out where we are going to go from here, either to Bogota, Cali or straight to Ecuador as Corey is already almost half way through his trip! time is flying so fast.

Im trying really hard to find a city where we can see a soccer, err futbol, game soon. really want to see one!

anyways gotta run, but am going to post some pics hopefully but this comp is pretty lamo.

One funny thing i forgot to mention, we just happened to run into the guy who organized Boarders without Borders, of ALL places in a bus station last night. we live in a small small world! disappointingly he was a bit of a hippie weirdo from Vic, but has his heart in the right spot.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Beat by Nature

Hi all,

We just returned last night from our 6 day hiking trek in the Colombian jungle. It was both the most unreal and most difficult thing i have ever done in my life. Ill explain...

The trek was initially supposed to be a 5 day return hike to these ruins of a lost city in the middle of the colombian jungle. we paid extra to take the trip with an indengous guide, visiting their villages and spending a day with a shaman on the way up.

Only a few of these things actually happened. We got to the place where they drop you off to start the trek (about 2 hours south of where we staying) and our guide was mia. We ended up having to join a larger group of about 7 people to do the hike, but this ended up being for the better because 6 days with just the four of us would have been borrrrriiing. nof offense guys.

anyways i want to write a ton about this mission, because it was serious mission, but this keyboard is so horrible and sticky ill stick to the highlights.

Day 1 to 3 was unbelievable. the colombian rainforest is beautiful, but it is a rainforest and it monsooned rain everyday of our trip (except for the last of course). we slept in hammocks, ate good food, listened to the bugs and birds and frogs at night, with fire flies lighting up the bushes. the first 3 days everything was still new, hiking was fun, even went to a mini cocaine factory which was pretty rad.

As everyday it rained we were constantly wet, my shoes were wet the entire 6 days. I also managed to bring the smallest bag on the trip which meant i wore the same pair of shorts for a week Our clothes never dried because it was so moist in the jungle, you wore your old wet clothes from the day before. We all stunk, were covered in mud, and putting those things on in the morning was unpleasant to say the least.

Day 3 we got to our third camp, and were going to do the 1200 step trek up to the top of the hill but it was going to rain so we waited til day 4. This meant we had to extend our trip for an extra day (also we had picked a different way to go home that was longer but meant we didnt have to go back through the same way we came in).

Day 4 was the worst day ever. Every day it rained the slope of the mountains became so slick with clay mud. On day 4 I almost cried 2x once when I slipped 8-10ft downhill, cut my ass ass up, and hit a tree, and 2nd when i slipped and fell onto a branch that stabbed me in the eye. We hiked between 4-6 horus a day and I have NEVER pushed myself to the physical limits that i did on this trip. We think we probably hiked the equivalent of the grouse grind (both up and down) 10 plus times in the 6 days. Because we were in the mountains we never walked sideways we walked up and down mtns. For example day 4, we hiked up the mountain to the City (an hour) hiked down (an hour), hiked up another mtn (hour) went down (2 hours) and then hiked back up a hill (1 hour). I dont know what was worse going uphill in the mud or downhill. Day 5 we did a 2 and a hlaf hour descent and i never thought it was going to end. I dont mean to make this post so negative, and its unfortunate i couldnt have written it after day 3, but day 4-6 were serious hell.

there were some ups, however, during this time. we did get to stay in this really beautiful place on night four (even though i was bummed all my dry clothes had gotten wet). I have an amazing shot of the sunrise. The last night was also fun, all of us hanging around playing cards and drinking tea/ colombian coffee for hours while it rained outside the cover of the communal area of a local farmers farm.

The views were also out of this world and you felt completely and utterly isolated in the jungle, it was an unreal feeling.

Bugs and ticks were an issue. I luckily didnt get any ticks (that i know of), Corey got ravaged :).

Day 6 hearing we had only 15 mins left to go sent a big smile to my face. Getting to the top all of us collapsed, my body had literally nothing left to give.

Our main guide, Carlos, and porters and cooks, Arielle and Che, were awesome and very kind. Carlos helped me down the entire first day of the mud (spoiled), but I was so so so so so afraid of hurting my knee it took me ages to get down.

I got out of thr trip unhurt (relatively) and alive, same with Owen Corey and Erin, so all is good.

Last night we partied with our group and guides (Carlos turned 50), which was pretty cool everyone came out even though we were up at 530 am and had hiked 4 and a half hours during the day. Tonight I think we go to Medillin, 16 hrs by bus, not before Erin goes to the doctor though. she did the whole thing while recoevring from a kidney infection that had left her in the hospital for a few days.

anyways this ended up being long but hope all is well at home and will update soon!

Yay clean clothes and a real bed, life is good!!!!

J

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Parque Nacionales Tayrona

So after i got back top the hotel last night after writing the last post corey and i had a pleasant surprise. pretty much passed out in our beds (it was 7pm _ we were beat), I heard a "Jesse"?. Opened the door and guess what the hotel guy said? "you have some amigos downstairs".

Erin and owen came to pick us up! It was really awesome seeing them. after all the emails, and skype sessions and planning we were finally all here in the same place in Colombia. They took us back to their hostel which is cute, four bunk beds and we have our own patio.

Today we spent the day at the Parque Nacionales Tayrona, where we walked through the jungle for an hour a half to get to a pristine beach for swimming. parque was beatiful and well kept, first time ive seen recycling bins since ive been down here.

anyways i just wanted to let you lknow we will be hiking in the jungle for the next 6 days to get to a Lost City about 45km from where we are staying now, so if ou dont hear from us in awhile you know why. its going to be hot, dirty and full of bugs, but fully worth the rivers, lakes, and amazing ruins we^re about to see.
don't worry we will be stcocking up on bug spray (as we are sleeping in hammocks in the tribe villages we will be passing)_ right now i am seriously a white juicy piece of meat compared with erin and owen. anyways will give full details when we return.

XO

Jess

Friday, April 9, 2010

Colombia!

Hi! Only have a fewminutes but just want to say all is well. We are alive and made it through the Colombian border a few hours ago.

Venezuela was not cool, sketchy, expensive and dirty. My first glimpse into how it might be was on my flight to Toronto I met a guy, Alejandro, from Caracas, Venezuela who had been walking the streets of North Vancouvr and was so paranoid of being raped and or robbed, being from Caracas. I laughed at first at his story but then realy started to think about what we were getting ourselves into. Coming into Caracas was cool, all of the lights are blue (compared to our yellow), kind of a blur as we bombed it, 100 plus kms on the streets, to dowtown. Showing up at the hotel luckily we our can driver was awesome and really helped us navigate getting a room and not getting attacked by all the poor people on the street lurking outside the hotel.

Hotel was GHETTO for 70 bucks cad a night, but clean. At 5 am though someone either rattled or was shaking our door and there was voices in the halway. I thought we were for sure getting robbed. luckily we kept quiet and nothing else happened, except for Corey and I both couldn{t sleep for the rest of the night. By this time we were ready to get the hell out of Caracas and Venezuela for that matter. Money was especially annoying because our cards only worked at one bank (which we only found by going to the Canadian embassy) and because there is a double exchange rate. The bank is 3 to 1, the black market up to 6 to 1. We kind of messed up big time on how much we spent but figired it out by today.

Anyways last night waited 5 hours in the bus terminal to take a 10 and a half hour bus to Maracaibo, venezula, the point where many buses leave for Colombia. Getting to Maracaibo we decided to take a por puesto (shared taxi) across the border. The road to the border was sad, very poor. Once we approached the border it got sketchy, getting stopped probably 6 to 7 times to check our passports. they almost didnt let us in (well i am assuming they wanted us to bribe them) bcause we had entered by plane, and we were suppose to leave by plane??? Anyways some venezuelan girls that were in our cab bribed them later on to not check our baggage. Luckiluy we also had an australian women in our taxi who can speak decent spanish and could understand what was going on. Anyways after the 2 and half hour trip across the border, we got on a four hour bus to Santa Marta where erin and owen are staying (we are hoping to meet with them tongight).

Colombia is beautiful and cheap and near the water, love it already.

Anyways time is almost up but will tell more later.

Bisous.

Jess
Hi! Only have a fewminutes but just want to say all is well. We are alive and made it through the Colombian border a few hours ago.

Venezuela was not cool, sketchy, expensive and dirty. My first glimpse into how it might be was on my flight to Toronto I met a guy, Alejandro, from Caracas, Venezuela who had been walking the streets of North Vancouvr and was so paranoid of being raped and or robbed, being from Caracas. I laughed at first at his story but then realy started to think about what we were getting ourselves into. Coming into Caracas was cool, all of the lights are blue (compared to our yellow), kind of a blur as we bombed it, 100 plus kms on the streets, to dowtown. Showing up at the hotel luckily we our can driver was awesome and really helped us navigate getting a room and not getting attacked by all the poor people on the street lurking outside the hotel.

Hotel was GHETTO for 70 bucks cad a night, but clean. At 5 am though someone either rattled or was shaking our door and there was voices in the halway. I thought we were for sure getting robbed. luckily we kept quiet and nothing else happened, except for Corey and I both couldn{t sleep for the rest of the night. By this time we were ready to get the hell out of Caracas and Venezuela for that matter. Money was especially annoying because our cards only worked at one bank (which we only found by going to the Canadian embassy) and because there is a double exchange rate. The bank is 3 to 1, the black market up to 6 to 1. We kind of messed up big time on how much we spent but figired it out by today.

Anyways last night waited 5 hours in the bus terminal to take a 10 and a half hour bus to Maracaibo, venezula, the point where many buses leave for Colombia. Getting to Maracaibo we decided to take a por puesto (shared taxi) across the border. The road to the border was sad, very poor. Once we approached the border it got sketchy, getting stopped probably 6 to 7 times to check our passports. they almost didnt let us in (well i am assuming they wanted us to bribe them) bcause we had entered by plane, and we were suppose to leave by plane??? Anyways some venezuelan girls that were in our cab bribed them later on to not check our baggage. Luckiluy we also had an australian women in our taxi who can speak decent spanish and could understand what was going on. Anyways after the 2 and half hour trip across the border, we got on a four hour bus to Santa Marta where erin and owen are staying (we are hoping to meet with them tongight).

Colombia is beautiful and cheap and near the water, love it already.

Anyways time is almost up but will tell more later.

Bisous.

Jess

Sunday, April 4, 2010