Friday, 24 January 2014
I forgot to mention that in Ipiales we went to Las Lajas Cathedral. It is the most beautiful church I have ever seen. It is like this castle nestled in the mountainside beside huge waterfalls that is it built around, over a river. The Virgin Mary appeared to many here. She has healed many of the sick here too. It is beautiful. You can climb right down to the river below and have a swim by the waterfall if you wanted to. I lit a candle for Nanny here amongst the rock where rainbows of endless wax has run down before. Then I said a prayer for her. And for little Cheebie too. I love you both so much. And I miss the hell out of you.
Also in Ipiales Ryan and I climbed to the top of a meadow to have a seat with a view for a couple hours. It was the best spot we could've chosen. The grass was so so soft and thick. So we began to look for big pieces. Before you know it we were rippin on the grass kazoo's. It felt like childhood. A group of young local kids were also hanging in the grass at the bottom of the hill. We kept seeing little heads popping up. And curious glances. As we jammed on at full force, they came over one by one. Till we were surrounded by all of them. And one by one we taught each of them how to put the grass between your thumbs. Eventually we were all picking handfuls to find the big ones and we were all a band of sqeaky noises. It was amazing. They were so cute. I am pretty sure a grass fight instilled shortly after. It was a fun afternoon.
Once we arrived in Salento after a lot of bussing I was absolutely thrilled. It was so beautiful. The famous Colombian coffee zone is in the countryside . Nestled amongst mountains and rainforest. Lots of farming is in this tiny village, so to pull up beside a horse and buggy is not out of the ordinary. The clip clop of horses feet is always near , especially on the cobblestone. The Camino Real street of artesianal shops, cafés, and restaurants is painted white and multicolours. It reminds me of something Norwegian or even Newfoundlandish. The beautiful local artists chime this strip in the evening with their musical serenades, only adding to the quaint and comfortable vibe of this town. Don't even get me staaaaaarted on the food here. .......MOM?! YOU WOULD LOOOOOVE THIS TOWN!!! I thought of you the whole time.
In Salento we hiked the Corcorra Valley from 9:30-5:30. It's a 5 hour hike. We missed the turn around and climbed MUCH deeper and higher then we were supposed to. Haha like 12km straight up the mountain in the wrong direction. We were definitely lost in the jungle. The map the hostel gave us was completely a joke. And false. We found a real map at the top of the mountain. When we realized how friggin far outta the way we were!!! Taking a picture of this gave us guidance and hope that we would not be stuck under a rock all night while the rainforest poured on us, listening to wild animals hunt. Lol phew! The valley is the home of Colombias national tree. The wax palm trees. They are SO tall and skinny and loom so high above you. The mist and clouds are always moving and shifting so quickly it makes for constant jaw dropping scenery. There were also many very rickety suspension bridges wired together, over waterfalls. Best hike so far. We also took a looooong walk to the Finca of Don Elias. It is a fair trade organic coffee production farm. They show you from plant to fruit to bean to roast to grind to cup. This coffee was delicious let me tell you. Wow. And Mom ? Again, you woulda loved the coffee ,.......and the Don ;) lmao.
From Salento we took a gruelling 2 buses through Bogota to San Gil. It is also nestled in a mountainous region. On a river. Due to it's surrounding of national parks, there is lots of adventure here. Tonnes to do. We arc staying at Hostel Santander Aleman and have met great people here. We had an amazing night ! Everybody had muchos bebidas and many hookah flavours. I had never tried Jasmine before and it was absolutely delicious. Thanks Paola and Andres. You two are amazingly talented. We all put our musical talents on display this night. I sang and rapped . Ryan rapped. A few played the guitar and sang and Andres blew to top off of the ENTIRE jam with his contribution. He didn't tell us he was an INSANE opera singer. He stood up to a classical instrumental and showed us. His chest is a speaker box. I am still in shock. Unbelievable. Thanks everyone for an unforgettable night.
The next day, Ryan and I went paragliding. I went twice. The first flight we flew over the Chicamocha Canyon!!! Like soooo high up in the clouds. And just cruised around. It was absolutely AMAZING. I would do that all damn day . No questions asked. The second one I did was over the valley with a view of the Canyon where the wind was high speed. Here I did some air acrobatics. It was intensely awesome!!! These paracute pilots have the best job in the world!!! Wow. Your just floating n zippin n steering through the sky all day. Everything is a good view from that high up!!! Ya reallllly gotta know how to manipulate the wind though or your done. Lol that's the beauty of it though. There's no hurting yourself . Haha it's all or nothing. So free. Free as a bird. We are currently in San Gil being lazy and awaiting tomorrows events. Waterfall trip and pool chillin will be the answer I am sure. Because it's vey hot here.
Friday, 17 January 2014
Once back in civilization we were happy to stay at Hotel D'Mario. Had to spend a buck to not get stuck in a sheisty place. It was refreshing after sleeping in tarantula nests. They fed the crap out of us in the jungle, so to hit the treadmill felt great. That was followed up by a dip in the pool. Dbl bonus. And the hot clean shower ? Well that just put the cherry on the cake. And for dinner we had tuna and onion open faced sammy's. Topped with our favourite condiment that we cannot live without now. The infamous Ecuadorian hot sauce,....Aji . IT-IS-GOLD JERRY!! GOLD!!! From Lago Agrio we took a bus to Tulcan. It was beyond jaw dropping. I did NOT expect that. At all. It was the most beautiful rainforest drive you could ever imagine. The green canopy jutting so high into the sky in bulging mountain tops. Over many rivers and waterfalls. The way the clouds sat so high in the mountains I could've cried. The entire ride took my breath away. My camera died at the first part. I would've saved the battery had I known it was about to get even more beautiful. We took the very twisty and steep edged mountain side road the whole way. It was dirt and it hugged the beauty perfectly for 8 hours. I was so satisfied. Especially when we literally rode through the sky. Into the clouds. It was like something out of a fantasy.
When we arrived in Tulcan the Ecuadorian border town, it was nighttime. We felt a little sketchy about it, so we did some research at a local Internet cafe. It's quite unbelievable the amount of horror stories we read. Basically that is was a zoo of people. All of which are there to rob you, pickpocket you, stab you and fake officials to rip you off. Insane line ups where you held your hands above your head just to fit. So we woke up at 5am to avoid the crowds and sure enough , we missed them. And it turned out to be the smoothest, easiest and quickest experience one could imagine. Lmao just goes to show ya how exaggerated shook inexperienced people can be.
We got stuck in Ipiales. The Colombian border town for a night to wait for the bus to Cali the next night. It was there we realized we forgot Melvin ;(;(; !!!!!. (If I haven't already mentioned him. He was our troubled shell-less turtle puppet from the Galapagos. He had a great story and was such a character. We adopted him and brought him everywhere. I slept with him every night. I hugged him when I was scared and talked to him when I was alone. He was our best buddy) I cried. So yep we did it. We crossed the damn border again in the afternoon back to the Tulcan hotel in Ecuador on a hope and a whim for a goddamn puppet. Sure enough the maid lied through her teeth and you could see it. She had given him to a hotel child and it was obvious. First she said he had been given away. Then she said she hadn't see him when she saw the look in my eyes. Now he has to live in Tulcan. Where he is probably getting tortured and is covered in some rugrat's sticky taffy. He must've been buried in blankets the day we left in a hurry to beat the border lines. I am SO sorry Melvin. I came back for you! i tried. But they lied buddy. They lied.........;(
We went online and all traveller warnings said "you would have to be insane to take the Ipiales -Cali bus at night ". That sometimes the route is blocked due to high alert warnings of robberies and paramilitary guerrilla warfare. We wanted a day bus, but they were all sold out. So we did the night bus. Lmao I haven't had that good of a bus sleep all trip! I felt the safest I have felt on a bus since coming to South America. There were 4 police checks in 10 hours. Like how much safer can you get?! People can be so stupid. Lol wow.......
We arrived in Cali this morning. And jumped on the next bus to Armenia. We are on that bus now. This kid behind me reeeeeeks like sausage and onion. Lol I keep looking back and expecting a sausage factory in production. And the festive accordion music that is blaring on the speakers would be perfect for that scene. Hahaha!!! Once we get to Armenia we are going straight to Salento if we can, to the coffee fields. It looks beautiful and I can't wait to be off a bus. Been on one since 7pm last night.
Monday, 13 January 2014
From the Galapagos we flew into Quito, Ecuador. And went straight to the bus station. The people here were not very friendly to us, as we had expected. So we went straight to Baños. This town is an adventure town for all walks of life. It's nestled in the mountains beneath a volcano. It has tonnes of different waterfalls.
We arrived on the 30th so we could spend New Years Eve here. BEST decision we could have made! In the daytime there were guys dressed as women in the streets of the main highway stopping traffic with a rope sometimes. They danced and hooted and hollared in order to make a buck or two and then let traffic pass. Whether this went back to the community or not I am unsure. It was SOOOO funny. Everyone dressed up. Including us. I can't even imagine what they do for Halloween.The customary tradition is to make bodies. Of burnable materials. The tradition originally started as building one's self, and to burn it on the turn of the year as to leave all the negative parts of you behind in the former year. An idea I love. Now the locals build whatever they want. It can be a celebrity, a cartoon, a superhero, or someone who has passed on, or yourself. We saw a memorial for Paul Walker "doll " . A few Bart Simpson's of all sizes. Lots of cartoon characters. The memorials to those that have been lost were definitely my favourite. On top of these random burning pits in the streets at midnight, anyone, of any age, in any place could light whatever fireworks they wanted! It was SO dangerous. Therefore,..... Amazing! I cannot count the amount of times I got hit by fireworks! Lol in the eyes especially. It took me a few times and some training from Ryan before I fully felt comfortable bursting lit fireworks into crowds of people doing the same. Due to my Canadian upbringing of regulated firework activities, this should be understandable ;-P .
This town is filled with things to do. The hot, warm and cold water healing baths are what the town is named after. Thermal Baths. Hence Baños. They are located at the bottom of the waterfalls in the main town and this is the water that they use for the baths. I loved them! Pisces fish that I am. ;). We stayed at 4 different hostals here. They just got better and better. Met a lot of cool people. We did some ziplining which was absolutely amazing! There's nothing like pretending your an eagle flying high over the canyons and rivers below. We also did a waterfall tour on cable cars. It was beautiful. We did also a 1 day tour to the jungle by Puyo in the Amazon. Here we saw a monkey rescue center...,(sad.....like once they are better, let them go!!! isn't that the point of the rescue?!?!...ugh anyways). We rode a hollowed out tree canoe down a river and hiked to a hidden waterfall lagoon. This made my day. It was so healing for my soul that day. We then went to a swing which swung HIGH over the cliff of a mountain. And river basin far far below. Wow. Talk about a rush. I loved it! Would do it again. Saw a shaman, and a random baby monkey jumped on me and thought I was its mother and kept trying to go inside my shirt. Lol very very cute little guy he was. He made monkey noises and clung to me when I tried to pull him off and clung to my iPod string. :-( .
ALAS!!! We cancelled our flight on January 8th and decided to go back to the jungle for 4 days! BAMMM smack dab deep into the Amazon rainforest. We travelled for 10 hours by bus, then waited for 4 hours in a small town called Lago Agrio. Then another 2 hours on a long wooden canoe down a long Amazonian river to the lodge. Guacamayo Ecolodge. Here we sleep in wooden huts that are fully open. I am not kidding when I say WE ARE LITERALLY SLEEPING IN TARANTULA NESTS!!!! That's what the Effin roofs are made of! Leaves . That house families if tarantulas ! Not only that but poisonous wolf spiders and all other kinds! The 10 hour bus was absolutely one of the most terrifying bus rides of my life hands down. I prayed . I thanked the universe for my existence. It was absolutely puking rain in the middle of the rainforest getting deeper by every kilometre. Permanent sharp turn arrows and sharp turn curvy road signs. We didn't go straight for more than a second or two ever. At points I swear we were driving through lakes . We actually did drive through a waterfall! Literally. In my mind, with every turn we took we were rolling down the massive cliffs, that we stared down at every opening. The bus was pitch black and people were literally hissing at us in the dark. So Swiss army in hand fighting the urge to sleep the entire time. I had such anxiety I couldn't even hold Ryan's hand. I had to keep them together just to pray. It's funny now. But not then. Upon arrival we were like " Jesus Christ , we just took the death bus to terror camp!! What in god's name is wrong with us?!?! Are we nuts?!" Lmao but here I am alive to tell the stories and MUCH less arachnophobic than before. If I ever shriek and run and hide from a Canadian dock spider again, please slap me in the face...................................Chandi ;-P
At Guacamayo Ecolodge, we went on many jungle boat rides. We did day treks and night insect walks. I miss the untainted nature of the Galapagos animals. These animals we really had to be creepy to see. But it was a whole new world of creatures. To add to our list of earths beautiful creatures we have tarantulas, wolf and social spiders, anacondas, caiman alligators, scorpions, parrots (macaw and others), toucans, carpentero woodpeckers, snakebirds, kingfishers, night herons (and 3 others), screaming pias, monkeys ( cappuccino, wooly, howler and squirrel), bats, sloths, pink river dolphins (rare), tree frogs (of many kinds with the circle fingertips), geckos, stick bugs, stink bugs, stinky turkeys, leaf bugs, lobster bug, butterflies (various beautiful kinds), night dwelling marsupial, marching wasps that live with ants, termites, and we heard the sounds of ocelots very close by on our night insect walk, and fresh Jaguar tracks. ........aaaand breathe. Lol And I can say that I swam deep in the Amazon, in water I could definitely not see in. The clay is way too thick. Hah sorry mom, there were definitely piranhas in there somewhere and anacondas that would devour me. But the dolphins did it sooooooo, I figured it was okay. Amazing!!!
Our last day there was my ABSOLUTE favourite day!!! We started our day by joining our new Dutch friend at the watchtower at 6 am for some viewing. There was a hawk eyed, lodge staff member there with his scope and binoculars. He was incredible. His sight and spotting skills have left me in a state of bewilderment. It looks over the tiny lodge and into the canopy surrounding us. We saw tonnes of wildlife. Much more than the boats down the river. The gentlemen was doing monkey calls and there were tonnes! I was thrilled. Everytime he called out the monkeys made really funny faces . They are so animated and fun. They were anywhere from 10-100 meters from our view tower. There were families feasting on fresh ripe fruit from the trees. And having a blast in the sunny morning hours. Jumping with gusto from tree to tree on some very small branches. Impressive. This spot is where we saw Toucan Sam and Woody Woodpecker in the flesh. Hooraaayyyyy!!!! Lots of parrots and other birds too.
After breakfast we went to see a shaman who we didn't catch. On the way we stopped to look at some different species of flora and fauna. The giant rainforest Ceiba tree was amazing! So huge and beautifully majestic with vines you can climb and swing on. Also there was the tree that anti-malaria medication is made from. And the ants that produced the acid that insect repellant is made from. The guide Dario put Ryan's hand on the huge ant nest and let them crawl all over. Then he squished them all. The smell was different and reeked of this 'acid ' Very cool. Also a garlic tree. It looked normal, but smelled like Max's cooking, so I asked. and sure enough the bark tasted exactly like garlic!!! Soooo weird! I took a piece and chewed it. Ryan literally took a bite out of the tree lmao.....anyway......The shaman was not at his usual ritual spot that day. He was probably doing much more important things than presenting himself to tourists. Such as collecting herbs, gardening, or tending to the sick. His name was Alberto and was the son of Tomas who passed on 2 years ago. Their spiritual and medicinal knowledge is ancient and passed on through generations. It's very crucial to the surrounding villages. They produce Ayahuasca and harvest the vines to make the most powerful hallucinogen in the world. This gives them vision into the sick to heal their ailments and gives the unsick a head on demon facing experience for the first time,...or few. Depending on how many you have. We saw his special potion and the roots he grew in his yard. It was a very solemn feeling leaving that place. You could feel the power and a deep appreciation washed all my emotions away to a zen that opened my eyes.
After this we went to a village to farm some yucca and have a lesson in indigenous cooking. We gave back to the community that day and that felt good. We also got to shoot wooden blow darts out of a long blow gun used for hunting. Hunting animals or defense from other tribes. It was SICK! They poison the tips and put cotton on the ends. I could do that all day. It was very fun.
That night we did the insect walk and got creeped out. It was exciting. Flashlights and lots of large creepy crawlies. Spider webs that were insanely woven with very strong silk that you could pull with your fingers and stretch and would just snap back to shape. You could catch a kite on that stuff. Black scorpions and tarantulas ready to pounce. Poisonous snakes and tree frogs. Lobster bugs the size of your hand. Hunting ocelots we could hear. Night wasps that were very focused on building a nest. Bug eyed marsupials. Just wow. A very unique experience. I LOVED the frogs. Sooooo cute and beautiful.
The next morning the whole group went to the watch tower hoping to see the canopy zoo again, but didn't have the luck that we did the previous morning. There was this funny spider. His web attached to the tower railing and the hydro wire. As soon as we all came and sun began to rise he LITERALLY started cutting his own web down. It was bloody brilliant. One by one he clipped his main supports and began to pack up his web into a ball like a tent!!! Lol it was almost like he was in a hurry to gather his things privately like we were allll pressuring him or something. But I was the only one who saw. So I brought Ryan to see this and really put him under the pressure cooker. Haha it seems he didn't want anyone to know his spot. What a quirky little thing he was. Like pulling in a fishing net. This was a first for me. I had to wonder if his net just pops back up at night like a tent too. But I highly doubt that.
We are now back in civilization (kinda lol) and have decided to go to Columbia to relax (hopefully). But the exitement of backpacking is that you never know what will come up. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE keep following because it's only the readers I am doing this for and it takes a long time to get this all down. I love you all. Kisses to Angel, mom, Chandi, Craig, Papa, Rod, Marg, Zeek and Lucy, Leah, Nike, Krysia, Sarah, Dew, and Cheebah, Nanny, Kirk and Nugget's souls dancing in the universe above. Big ups to B & Pj, Nivek , googly Kevin, D, Bug and Tyler. Keep it real homeflexes. <3
The first day in Isabela we had a nap first off. All we did was eat after this. Food food and more food. God I gotta drop this extra 15 lbs when I get back. Yeah I said it! I got fat here dammit lol. Then we saw our friends from California from Santa Cruz and San Cristobal. They suggested a tour of Los Tuneles. These are very unique lava formations above and below the water. We took the advice of our totally awesome friend Tyler's family, and booked it for 2 days after that.
Our second day we rented bicycles and took the most beautiful bike ride I have ever seen. From the main road, to the Wall Of Tears. This was a place where a penal camp was located and this Wall's purpose was to punish prisoners. It was a U.S. outpost during the 2nd world war and they hauled massive volcanic rocks by hand into a large wall. l which they were forced to contain themselves with. It was surrounded by old soldier stations, and a sign that read " Where the strong cry, and the weak die"....... Pretty powerful stuff. We experienced something unique there. But if ya wanna know what it is ya gotta ask me personally........The bicycle ride to this place is filled with endless joy. On the right there are volcanic tunnels and protected one of a kind wetlands. Followed up by the 2nd best view of the Galapagos I think I saw there. The first being Frigate Bird Hill in San Cristobal. Only this one was an island , feast for the eyes. On the left was multiple jaw dropping beaches and a volcanic rock bay. From here led a mangrove path and "Hobbit" tunnel to my favourite place. The hidden lagoon. It was where the freshwater and salt water merged to make a cove that was a perfect swimming pool. It was a hidden sand lagoon that you could run and dive in made naturally. I have ALWAYS wanted to go to one of these. Dreams coming true once again.
To start the day to Los Tuneles,we saw penguins swimming around in the bay beside the pier. On our way to the lava tunnels (which are very unique), we saw them. The angelic,.......endemic,........ One of a kind MASSIVE Galapagos manta rays!!!! During our ride to the tunnels they were dancing and mating. I have never seen or even heard of such a large beautiful creature. Their wing spans were 4-6 metres long!!! When our guide, Fabricio, told us this previously we were sure he meant feet not metres. But sure enough it was metres. We all jumped in the deep dark Pacific to try and have a swim with them, but they are too fast and too swift. I could see them above water splashing and their white under bellies, but to actually catch them still through a mask was a difficult task. It was my personal highlight. After this we went to the lava tunnels and when we jumped off here the first thing we saw were 2 GIANT mating sea turtles. Haha I felt creeping swimming with them taking pictures of their intimate act, but c'monnn. Who wouldn't ? ;) As we continued along the inlet there were many more huge turtles peacefully swimming along. Who seemed completely oblivious to us. It was beautiful. As we squeezed , ducked , and weaved through the mossy, volcanic passages more wildlife came to life. Sea lions played. Turtles emerged. Sharks sleeked quietly around us. There were octopus hidden beneath the surface and golden rays zipping along. The only word for these islands is magical. The docile nature of these untainted creatures warms your heart in a way only going there can describe. On the way home we stopped and searched and found the also endemic giant sea horses! Hah and their size is only 5 inches! Biggest in the world. In Africa they are a millimetre long and are the same colour as the coral. How you would find those I have NO idea. But the ones we saw were SOOOO cool. Just clinging to the sea grass and extremely cute. Wow. Like something out of a fairy tale. The same way you think of a unicorn. When you see one, it's like a childhood fairy tale just unfolded in front of your eyes. What a special Christmas Eve day.
Oh wait! Did I mention I saw my first amazing school of flying fish on the way from San Cristobal to Santa Cruz? They were beautiful!
On Christmas Day we decided to do something completely different and special. We decided to climb the famous Volcan Sierra Negra and Volcan Chico. We woke up at 5 am very groggy from the night before and hauled ourselves onto the transport. This was a 6 1/2 hour hike to 2 volcanoes. The giant crater of Volcan Sierra Negra was the first. The crater was massive. 10 km across. Like a sunken city of rubble. The second was Volcan Chico. It was a huge climb. Many levels. The shapes changed the more we climbed and so did the colours. The view of the Pacific Islands and all the land was incredible. That when it hit us. We are climbing volcanoes for Christmas Day. Truly unique. The colours and lava exit points were unbelieveble. The shapes were so varied it's hard to explain. Some reached out to you like faces, some vomited and stopped in mid air, some were smooth like a baby's skin. Some were red, some were orange, some were jet black, and some were every colour of the rainbow. It was still active, so when you put your arm inside the steaming holes you could cook inside them. They were literally little ovens . When we got the top the huge crater pit from which it last spewed was something I cannot describe. Earth at it's rawest. You could vividly picture, from all the evidence leading up to this point, the last time it spewed hot magma in 1979. We followed it's trail backwards to the heart of the artery from the earths core. And had a 360 degree look from the top of the ocean, islands , volcanic rubble, and Isabela landscape. If you ever do this trek I cannot stress this enough,.... BRING LOTS OF WATER!!!! We ran very low, and became very desperate very quick. We ran into a man with 2 horses about an 8th of the way up. He was saying " Water. Water ." We were like , " thank god, we would looove some water !". He looked at us and said " mmmmm, sorrryyyy . It's for the group. We look at the group (who is all holding full 2L bottles of icy cold water) and we said please señor. We are really thirsty.he shrugged his shoulders and said "lo siento" . Which means sorry. Only after I had to secretly ransack the horses giant 4 gallon bottle to fill our small sized bottle did we realize it was Christmas Day again. Pfffft. Thanks bud.
The next few days in Isabella was like one universal blessing after the other. I originally went out to see the penguins because I had not swam with them yet. The sea lions were being characters as usual. The Iguanas were going out of their way to climb over the sea lions. ( who communicate like very social humans in a polygamist family btw) . And then we saw the penguins. They are so fast. So I got in the water with my snorkel to capture them underwater but the Humboldt current brought so much mineral rich material that I couldn't see anything but hoards of little fish. On account of the current that day I was the only one in the water. My lucky day. A feeding frenzy happened! And I was in the middle of it! I was surrounded in hundreds and hundreds of Blue Footed Boobies. They were everywhere. Swooping in waves all around me. They shot out of the air diving like bullets into the water. Hundreds flew straight at my head. Their wings swept my ears while the bright blue webbed feet smacked me in the face. Then the penguins came. Then the sea lions. Then the golden rays, pelicans and frigate birds . It was a spectacle!!! At that time the boats started to arrive . Everyone stopped with their cameras and I am definitely in many spectator videos. It was INCREDIBLE!!! I would live and die on Isabela. It was and will always be my heart.