A Travellerspoint blog

Cartagena

Cartagena
…is a beautiful and well preserved tourist town located at the very top of Colombia. It is also one of Colombia’s prettiest and proudest places too. Cartagena has a mixed population of Colombians, Caribbean people and foreigners who have found themselves a job (or just a Colombian woman) here. We had high expectations when we arrived (due to the shockingly high hostel prices!!!) and really weren’t disappointed at all. As we jumped out of the plane we were greeted by a wall of hot moist air which made for a really good start to this part of the trip, especially after the coldness of Bogota (Rob actually got sunburnt there). We had a quick taxi ride into town and checked into our place with …thank god…air con!!!! Straight after we made our way into the Old Town to find a busy place with lots of jewellery and hat sellers but also locals hanging out in the beautiful leafy squares , having a lemonade, some fruit or just a chat and maybe a cheek few Salsa moves. The Old Town itself is surrounded by a huge fort wall and has amazing little streets with colourful colonial style houses…showing off their pretty planted balkonies. We loved walking around the town and soon found out where the more lively and untouristy (cheaper) part of town was. As with most South American towns, Cartagena has got the buzzing markets, dirtz outskirts but also lots of friendly locals, street vendors and amazingly good drinks and fruit to buy in the streets. Fter two days we planned to go up to Play Blanca on Isla Baru…the very best beach of Colombia according to the locals and they might be right as we found out after another bumpy hour long bus ride and having haggles down a driver to get us over to the island. Walking along the beach in 40 degrees and a humidity of 90/ at noon isn t fun. But our reward was Los Corales Beach huts where we planned to send the next two nights. Just what you want… lovely simple huts right on the beach, with some hammocks and little chairs to hang out. We had a great time and the beach is especially beautiful in the mornings and evenings. When you re just by yourself...sipping on a coco loco cocktail (out of a coconut) and being given refills as you like ;). The sunset is amazing and seeing the moon over the water in morning just sooo cool!!! The friendly huge crabs that climb over your feet in the sand at night even made everything a little better than it already was. We had a great beach break and it just felt so good to have some time out of town without the hassle and noise. When we came back to Cartagena it was a bit like a heat shock but also nice and we spent a few more relaxed days with the strongest cocktails in the world and the hottest samba you can watch.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 09:01 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Buzzing Bogota

Bogota….is unbelievably huge! That was the first we found out and after nearly jumping off at the wrong bus terminal at 5 in the morning it fortunately took another 2 hours to get to the right one and saved us lots of time in the dark and cold watching our bags and argueing with each other about the shitty early time. The taxi into town was fairly easy (we just had to bash some elbows to the left and right and pull angry faces when some cheeky people tried to get to the front pretending they had someone old or very young with them). Our hostel had a 8am check in which seemed to be the best thing ever when we arrived….time for a nap!!! Later that day we started exploring Bogotas old town and found a busy, loud, but also interesting city with great little stalls that sells fruits and juices of all kind, cakes, biscuits , coffee and hot chocolate in which you dip a cheesy bun (unexpectedly good!!!). The old town is as usual full with cobbled stones and colonial style houses and little bars, shops and street sellers. The next days we went up to the Monserrat (the obligatory South American town cable car) and the view gives you an idea of how huge this city is. Rob caught a nasty red neck and face that day and being sunburnt I treated him to some take away Pizza and a good old Roger Moore James Bond…what a life saver!!!! All this obviously led to a fresh Rob the next morning that was even willing to go shopping with me (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). He was a good break though for not smashing out the money as you can buy everything for pretty much nothing…which is just more than tempting! I kept it down to one item thinking that Rob probably wouldn t be willing carrying any of my stuff around and we walked around a bit more and just enjoyed town. As we hadn t seen any of Bogotas night life yet we decided to head for a few drinks with some other guys out of the hostel and had a cheap and great night out….having said that all of us were missing the 24 hour MCDs at the end though as not being in the Gringo part of town means everything shut a little earlier. The day after we decided it was time to do something and headed up to Zipaquira which is a little town about 50 km north of Bogota….yes 50km….so 3 hours on the bus and one cheeky nasty taxi driver being pissed off we got there and headed up to the main reason we came. The Salt Cathedral. It s hidden in an old Salt mine and has several halls, crosses and areas to see and even though our tour was in Spanish it was worth coming up and a lovely day trip. That als deserved a few more beers in the evening and a rather weird last night in the hostel as the water pipe had broken and the the nightstaff slept like a hedgehog in winter and didn t open the door for 30 mins. All in all happy we managed to ring home the day we left and then flew out to Cartagena.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 17:04 Comments (0)

Popayan and San Agustin

Statues, some breathtaking hiking and the best hostel ever

After a short stop in Popayan we had and early start as we were to catch the bus to San Augustin. We arrived at the bus station with plenty of time to spare and tried to buy a ticket only to be told that the bus was full. (Note: we tried buying tickets the evening before to be told the morning is early enough-BITCH!!). After bouncing around a few ticket desks we finally found a bus that would take us but upon boarding the bus we soon found out why it was the only one that had spaces left. The bus was extremely small, dirty and seemed to have holes in the body…so fine South American carriage standard ;). On the plus side the bus was also full ;) The ride to San Augustin took five hours and was fairly uneventful, the only plus side of the trip was that the scenery was amazing and our bums and knees bruised.
Upon arriving at San Augustin we were dropped off at the outskirts of town and transferred to a taxi to complete the last part of the trip. As we took our bags from the bus we found that the bags were covered in dust. This must come from one of the many holes that we had found. We were greeted in the taxi by the driver and a travel guide who was touting for business which we suspicious as you get around here when someone offers information declined straight away. The guide turned out to be quite helpful as he gave us some tips on where to go and what to do. We dropped the guide off in the centre of town and headed to the hostel, the hostel was around two kilometres out of town along a dirt track and after a bone jangelling journey we arrived to find one of the best hostels we had ever stayed in. We were greeted by the owner and shown around and after only a few minutes felt absolutely comfy in the place. Casa de Nelly is probably the best hostel that we have ever stayed in. It s a beautiful layed back place with garden huts, balkonies, hammocks, terraces, flowers, two sweet dogs and an amazingly sweet kitten that even Rob couldn t resist (I found them asleep on a chair together).Harry who works as the main guy there is incredibly cool and the most helpful host you can find, without trying to sell us of he helped us with lots of information. Everything was just perfect and after a little sleep in the hammocks we went to town for some food and a stroll thrugh the local market. Happy as a larry we stumbled our way back up the hills later on with two huge bags full of fresh fruit for just a euro. We were so tired that night, that we went to bed early and funnily enough I even woke up at night because it was so quiet and relaxing compared with everything we have had before. Fresh and ready for some action we started our hike up to the Main Park in the morning (after a good Colombian coffee of course) and started gasping for breath after 5 minutes. Hiking around in 3200m is just still different for us. Still we had a good time in the Park where you find lots of ancient stone figures that are scattered around and have something to do with the Precolombian folks that buried them with their dead. (Even the guides don t really know the true facts…so it s better not to pay one). As we felt pretty good we decided to hike around a bit more and ended up in the middle of fields, plantages, cows and horses, having a hard but pretty good time. A few hours on the night bus we really appreciated being that tired from the day, grabbed a quick Arepa ( Colombian maize pancake topped with cheese) and snoozed off to dreamland and Bogota.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 17:02 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Bordercrossing Ecuador to Columbia...

...a lot of worries about nothing

So we had read a lot about the border crossing into Columbia and reading some blogs you can really get the impression of going into the most dangerous part of Southamerica. Despite all doubts and with aslight hangover from La Ronda the night before we headed up on the bus to Tulcan early in the morning. The rather long ride was a little fade but ok as Rob entertained me with some boring jokes ;) and we had enough snacks with us too. When we got to Tulcan we quickly hopped on a taxi telling the driver to go to “Immigration” which he luckily understood and dropped us off at the frontiers offices. It all went unbelievable smooth and easy…no queues or waiting around (and that on a Saturday) and in no time we found ourselfes in a minibus to Ipiales, the town just behind the border…having a few random bags and some Ecuadorian children on our laps. At the bus terminal in Ipiales we found out there s no more busses on the same day to Popayan as actually travelling over night on that route seemed to be dangerous (not cause of the so feared Guerrillas but more of local robbery). So we chose the next cheap hotel close to the station as a stopover for the night. It turned out to be a dump…but a cheap one with at least a shower. Ipiales wasn t the place to be out at night so we only grabbed a bite to eat and then headed to bed. It s rather difficult to sleep though when the bed has got a 45 degree angle and rob is lying on the bottom side though. Not really feeling fresh we jumped on the morning bus to Popayan at 7am, which went rather smooth. Wefound a rather nice hostel and had a little walk around in the historic centre. Popayan is a nice little town and really worth a stopover…also it serves the most cheesiest pizza we ve possibly ever had!

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 18:37 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Quito

After a long flight back from the Galapagos Islands (we had to stopover in Guayaquil) we were finally greeted again by the buzzing and noisy streets of Quito, the capital of Ecuador and it s biggest city. It is spread out over lots of mountains and a lot bigger than we thought at the start. Coming into it from the airport in the dark even reminded me a little of Rio, with the big Staue of the Virgen de Maria throwning over the city. Just the Copacabana is missing. We came in at night and found our hostel to be a charming place with a stunning view over parts of the old town and up to the Virgen. Despite it being a little cold (considering 15 degrees isn t really cold but we were just so used to the tropical climate on the Galapagos) we went out to head for some food. Grabbing a seat in one of the many street stalls around the corner was by far the easiest as we then were happily greeted by a waitress who told us whats on the menu. Our faces and the huge questionmarks in our eyes were probably the funniest thing she had seen in a while. With a lot of patience she repeated again and again and we decided to just pretend we understood and ordered whatever she had said. It turned out to be a good decision with plenty of nice food and was topped by the bill which was a bargain of 5 dollars. Next day we went out to explore some more of Quito which turned out to be rather difficult as we had decided to take the cable car up to get a view over the 2900. High city…which can be rather hard when there s thunderstorms and huge clouds scattered around everywhere. Ok…we gave up on this one an now tried to get a bus ticket….which probably made the tyxi driver that coud drive us down to Carcelen Terminal rather happy and wealthy enough for the day (it was only 7 dollars though). We should have know that getting a ticket a day before really isn t in the ticket sellers interest as they much rather enjoy screaming Tulcan Tulcan Tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuullcccaaaaaaaaaaan and other city names out of their windows and who ever comes along will be shouted at. Queuing isn t a strong point of any Ecuadorians so it s elbows first…but that comes as a given all over Soutamerica. So having done nothing we went back to the old town and started to enjoy th day with jut strolling along the nice colonial building, having some snacks and a chilled afternoon. After a little break in the hostel we went out to La Ronda, which is a nice little stret in the historic part that has lots of bars, backyards and busy little shops on the weekends . It s filled with locals and a few foreigners and there s loud music everywhere whilst you can slurp Canelazo (which is a hot spiced cider with rum and kisks you off your feet after just one glas) at the little stalls. We had a great evening with a few drinks and some nice and cheap food that night and then got ready for the 5 hour bus to Tulcan and to cross the border to Columbia the next day.

Posted by PEANUTSONTHERUN 18:36 Archived in Ecuador Comments (0)

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