Thursday, November 26, 2009

One of the most beautiful places I´ve ever seen

As we spent the first few months of our trip wearing Alpaca sweaters, climbing cold mountain tops and generally not getting the chance to bust out our flip flops we started really looking forward to the day when we´d reach the Caribbean coast. Well we finally made it and its just as sweet as we´d hoped.

Taganga is a sunny backpackers paradise with great nightlife. Its cheap and sits right on a beautiful fishing boat filled bay which reminded me a bit of the bay in Acapulco. We laid on the beach all day and then ate tasty arepas by night. (Side note- one of my favorite restaurants in NYC is Caracas, a small venezuelan arepa joint which has made me look forward to Venezuela since our trip began. I was thrilled to find out I wouldn´t have to wait that long.)
After spending a few nights in Taganga we headed for Parque Nacional Tayrona. It is just hour and a half away and is located on the jungle covered coast. The parks beaches emerge out of the jungle and are mostly filled with coconut palm trees. Its one of the most beautiful places I´ve ever been.

Once we arrived in the park we had a two and half hour hike through the jungle before we arrived at Cabo San Juan de la Guia. Some pics of the hike below.

If you saw the pics of the terrible place we had to stay in our last post, then this place was just about as heavenly as we could imagine on our backpacker budget. For $10 a night we got to stay in hammocks in the hut you see on the top of this hill below.

The two hammocks below were Gemma and I´s and looked right out onto one of the bays. There also was a massive deck providing 360 degree views of the ocean, bays, and jungle behind.

There were two bays which were split by the little hill which our hut rested on top of. We stayed here for four nights and it was like heaven.

There were lots of little creatures running about including red squirrels, iguanas and tons and tons of these little crabs that scuirred away in waves as you approached.

I was really impressed with some of the rock formations around the park. And with Gemma on top of them it made it hard not to snap away.

This donkey with two gas tanks strapped to him reminded me of a Wile E Coyote cartoon where he has rockets strapped to him.

A turtle shaped piece of driftwood.

We kicked back, read alot and relaxed. The palm trees provided a nice background to my book as I laid on my back on the beach.

Gemma started working on a tan and we have hope that one might develop someday.

Our next stop is Cartagena.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mompos - A Taste of Life on the Mississippi

Its easy to find towns in every country full of old churches and off beat museums but Mompos offers something entirely different. Its a small town located in between Bogota and Cartagena on the banks of the Rio Magdalena. Its really hot and humid. Probably even more so than NYC in July. You couldn´t even stand still outside without sweating. So we turned to drinking lots of ice cold Aguilla, the local light beer.

Before we could start our journey to Mompos we had to spend one night in Bucaramanga. We arrived late at night and were catching a 5am bus the next morning. We found this gem of a hotel to sleep in. They led us into a windowless room off the garage of the hotel. The lock was a 2x4 you jammed into the doorway. The shower (which we didn´t use) was a pipe sticking out of the wall with a trickle of water that didn´t even clear the sink below it. Add it to the list of rank hotel rooms we´ve subjected ourselves to for quick transit town stops.

One of the charms of Mompos is that its pretty difficult to get to but rewards you with a nice relaxing time once you´re there. They told us it would take six hours to get to but as usual this was a severe underestimate. We traveled slowly on one of the worst roads we´d been on since Bolivia for ELEVEN hours! One of the reasons for the extra five hours is below.

The humidity drove us to drinking. We hid from the sun in little cafes and bodegas around town drinking 60 cent Aguilla and Poker cerveza, and a cider called Redds. The pictures in this post aren´t the best and don´t really do the town justice. Gemma says its because I was drunk most of the time which is probably true.

Here is a view of the river which the town sits on. Most of the shops, bars and markets as well as our hotel are all situated along the river. Not alot goes on in Mompos but it has a quaint charm to it like you´ve stepped back in time and are hanging out with Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Walking through the streets at night you see everyone outside their houses rocking in their rocking chairs talking and watching life slowly go by. We finally found some to rock in at a nice hotel.

Gemma´s midday jam session over looking the river.

While neither Gemma or I can hardly claim to be a Chef extraordinaire, we have come to perfect the pasta with chorizo, onions and peppers dish. Below was a particularly inspired effort.

We spent three nights there before taking a taxi to Taganga on the Caribbean Coast. After three months on the road looking forward to the white sand beaches of the Caribbean we´re finally on our way!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life on the bus - plus pics from Barichara

When Gemma and I started our trip three months ago in Lima, Peru I asked the owner of the first hostel we stayed at how we should travel about South America. What I meant by that question was given that we started in Lima and wanted to see Bolivia which was to the south and Colombia which is to the north, which way should we head first? A smartass hostel owner from Panama was in the room and answered ¨By Bus¨. Yeah thanks buddy, we got that.

But traveling by bus is pretty much a twice weekly occassion for us. There is basically no rail system in South America and my sense of direction is too awful for us to try and drive. We spend ALOT of time on buses. The person in the seat in front of me ALWAYS extends their seat back as far as possible immediately when they sit down, even if its not time to sleep. Gemmas seat never reclines. The air conditioning is always on full blast making it freezing cold. The people selling the bus tickets lie about how long the journey is, usually subtracting at least an hour or two. The roads are usually terribly bumpy and Gemma gets motion sick.

One positive of life on the road is that we get to see alot of stunning scenery along the way. I usually don´t take pictures through the glass because they rarely turn out well but the one below was taken from the bus. Its not the best example of the scenery we see, but its decent.

Onto Barichara, a stunningly beautiful quiet little Colombian town just north of Bogota. We only spent the afternoon there because there isn´t much to do. Its just a really beautiful town that the guidebook described as a picture perfect setting for a Hollywood movie.

The little theatre below looks out onto the vista you see in the picture right below it. We didn´t get to see a performance but it must make for a good venue.

All the buildings had red tile roofs and colored windows. There were lots of flowers everywhere and some cool looking trees. Not much else to say about this little town, but thought you might like to see some pics.