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...



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