Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bought my ticket to South America

September 19, 2010

Bought a ticket from Ft. Lauderdale to Cartagena, Colombia via Spirit Airlines for only $54.10 for the one way ticket including all fees and taxes. Outstanding. Now got to figure out how to get to Ft. Lauderdale for the November 16th departure.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cartagena, Bogota and Cali, Colombia

November 16, 2010  (Tuesday)

Arrived in Cartagena at 1:30 pm and then was supposed to catch a connecting flight to Bogota at 3:55 pm but it was delayed until 5:30 pm. Colombia is known worldwide for its beautiful women but while waiting at the departure gate every woman seemed incredibly beautiful. There were about 300 people waiting for flights and at least 40 of them could have been a model anywhere in the world. Found out they had been contestants in the Miss Colombia contest the previous night in Cartagena and were all flying home the same afternoon. The delay seemed to pass much too much quickly. LOL  Finally made it to Bogota around 6:45 pm and then caught the connecting flight to Cali at 8:30 pm and arrived at 9:30. The cab driver the hostel sent was not there when I got outside so found my own cab and made it to the hostel around 10:30 pm. Long 2 days and slept like a baby.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cali, Cartagena

Wednesday   November 17, 2010  (Day 3)

Woke up at 7:30 am well rested for the first time in 2 weeks. Spent most of the day blogging and posting pictures and watched a couple of movies at the hostel. Met a German, Tom, who was staying at the hostel and chatted for a while. No time, energy or desire to check out the famous Cali nightlife on Sexta Avenue. Another big day of traveling with 9 hrs on bus to Pasto. Highlight of my day was talking to Kade, Madison and Scott on Skype. Skype definitely helps but does not cure missing everyone.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Cali to Pasto (9 hrs on a bus thru the mountains)

Thursday Nov. 18, 2010 (Day 4)

Caught a cab from Casa Blanca Hostel to the bus terminal. On the way to the terminal the police were placing yellow tape around a shooting that had just occurred on the street according to the taxi driver. Sometimes you forget where you are and that Colombia is and can be dangerous if you are not careful. Of course, so can BR or NO. That is why selecting a hostel in a safe neighborhood and not venturing out late at night without a group is important and always take a cab at night.

Got to the bus terminal around 7:30 am and they quickly tried to jam me on a crowded bus. It was obvious that the other passengers did not want me in their crowded space so I stepped off the bus. Then the driver offered me a seat in the front with him so off we went. The trip through the Colombian mountains was both beautiful and a little scary. Hairpin turn and some crazy driving high in the mountains makes for an interesting day. There were 5 instances where landslides had occurred with only one serious enough to close the road for a while. Dozers and gravel trucks were working on it but we found a road around it. We also had a police encounter where everyone had to get off the bus. Not sure why since my Spanish is very limited. Have I mentioned that almost no one speaks English in South America. In Central America most speak at little some English it seems.

Got to Pasto around 5:30 pm, caught a cab and booked a room at Koala Hostel which was recommended by Lonely Planet. Private room with tv and wifi for only $8.50 night. Will catch another bus to the border of Ecuador and then to Quito. Not sure but expecting 5-6 hrs tomorrow and then 12 days in Quito seeing the sites in Ecuador and learning Spanish, hopefully.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pasto to Quito

November 19, 2010   (Day 5)

Left around 7:30 am and walked the 1.2 miles to the bus station and caught a bus to the border. After quickly getting thru Colombian Immigration, I walked across the street and quickly got thru Ecuador Immigration. Had to be the easiest border crossing ever. Usually there is about 3 miles between immigration and countless people trying to con you out of your money between them. Then I caught a taxi to the bus station which was 6 miles away and then a 5 hr bus to Quito, Ecuador. Arrived around 4:30 pm and then a 45 minute taxi ride to Old Quito in the Historic District to the Hostel Quito Cultural which is really a nice hotel. I plan on staying here until December 3rd and got a private room rate of $13.50 after negotiation including cable TV and breakfast. Only 2 blocks from the Grand Plaza. I have only walked around for about 30 minutes but promise there will be some amazing photos over the next few days. Hoping to find a good Spanish school tomorrow.

Another great day of sights riding through the mountains but no pictures unfortunately because the windows were heavily tinted,

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Great LSU win over Ole Miss

Saturday   November 20, 2010

Loved the LSU victory over Ole Miss. Can't believe I got the game in my room. Sorry I haven't posted any pictures but have had the stomach virus for last 2 days. Think it was some dodgy looking food I ate in Colombian bus station yesterday. Hopefully will feel better tomorrow and get back to posting pictures.,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Street Parades by the Grand Plaza

Sunday   November 21, 2010

Wonderful parades around the Grand Plaza especially the guys on stilts doing flips and splits WHILE ON STILTS. Unfortunately I forgot my camera had video on it. I am so electronically challenged. It started to rain so the parades were cut short so don't have any more pictures. Maybe next Sunday.

Also finally posted some pictures on my Cali to Pasto post.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

teleferiQo (sky tram) to Cruz Loma

Monday   November 22, 2010

Met a nice Australian couple, Peter and Sadie, at breakfast who asked if I wanted to share a cab to the teleferiQo (sky tram) that leads to the best view of Quito at 4100 meters (13,200 feet). Since the weather was beautiful for a change I decided to chance the weather even though the weather in Quito can change in a second.
We split the $5 cab ride and paid the $7.50 fee up the 2.5 km ride up the mountain. The view was spectacular and the weather remained good for the 1.5 hrs we spent on top. Started raining hard 2 hrs later.

Monday, August 22, 2011

View of Quito from El Panacillo

Tuesday   November 23, 2010   (Putting the day of the week down helps me keep track) lol

Caught a taxi to go to El Panacillo (Little Bread Loaf) , a hill to the south of Quito, which is topped by a huge statue of La Virgen de Quito and offers incredible views of the whole city and surrounding volcanoes.

Funny. All the kids on a school outing were told to keep touching the wall while at the top of the Virgen de Quito.

Lunch of fillet sea bass, fries and rice at local market for only $2

Saturday, August 20, 2011

San Francisco Plaza

Laguna del Quilotoa

December 3, 2010

Went on a tour of Laguna del Quilotoa which is a beautiful lake inside a volcano at about 13,000 feet high. We started out at 7 am with my guide and it took almost 4.5 hrs to get there after stopping for the food market at Saquisili for approx. 45 minutes. The ride in our car was even more scary and exciting than the bus trip from Colombia. The road was very high and many hairpin turns with no barriers to keep you from hurtling to your death. We almost got killed when a 2 Giant Orange Dump Truck tried to pass another dump truck on a curve. Still not sure how the 3 vehicles all fit on that narrow mountain road. Probably most scared I have ever been in an automobile. We encountered several other large trucks on the way up the mountain and they all seemed to be racing each other down with little concern for safety. The return trip in the pitch dark of night with all the hairpin curves was no piece of cake either.

Back to the Laguna. We started our trek along the top of the crater around 12 pm. It was my guide, Mateus' first time to Quilotoa, so we were both experiencing it for the 1st time. As we started the journey we immediately found ourselves with a new guide, a brown dog, that seemed determined to lead the way. The trip was to last about 4 hrs. The path along the top of the crater started out very beautiful until the clouds rolled in and we could no longer see the lake. That did not deter us from completing the walk around the crater rim. The dog kept us on the trail a few times when we would have taken a wrong path. The climb was very strenuous as we kept climbing and then descending over and over. We finally reached the approximate end of the trail and saw what looked like a road near a path that went inside the crater. Unfortunately we took the crater path. 2 hours later, lost, we found a native who was was tending sheep who said we would have to walk straight up the mountain that we had descended to get back on the path. It looked too difficult so we continued looking for a better path. With only an hour of daylight, we asked another native woman to guide us out of the crater. We started straight up the wall of the crater for an hour and reached our car about 10 minutes before dark. I paid the woman $10 ($7 more than we had negotiated) because I realized the danger we had been in lost without a flashlight and totally exhausted. We arrived back at the hostel around 9:30 pm laughing about the whole adventure which is easy to do when you are once again safe. Leave for Mendoza Friday night on plane from Quito.

Our first guide after we got lost. She said just climb up the mountain. Easy for her to say. lol

Native children sheep herders who found us interesting and followed us.

The woman who may have saved my life by guiding us out of the crater before dark.