Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dont date a girl who travels

Dont date a girl who travels

This article was posted quite a number of times on facebook so I eventually read it.  It was pretty funny and definitely in many ways could be a description of me.   

I had to laugh when I read it. 
OK I have to admit my hair is unkempt and discolored from the sun, and my skin has been burned to a point where I think my tan lines are permanent as well as the scars from endless bug bites all over my body. 
We may seem hard to please, but I think travelers learn to easily be pleased and enjoy the moment and little things in life.  Yes new experiences, continual growth and learning is what drives us but relaxing and enjoying a movie is something everyone should be able to appreciate. Though I do admit when we have had so many amazing experiences and seen so many amazing things maybe we are not as easily impressed anymore. 

Yes we know how to stretch our money and take advantage of deals.  OK I also have to admit I have changed jobs and maybe am wasting my college degree. I am not a dive instructor or yoga teacher.. yet : )  admittedly it is on my list of experiences in life I want, and I have completed most of the other experiences that were on my must do list. 

I agree that generally travelers don’t want to hear people continually complaining about the same things, but because we want to help them change their lives so they don’t need to complain. Don’t complain about it.. change it. We have learned how much control we have over our lives and how we have the ability to change the things we truly want to change, and we don let our fears hold us back.  We like looking at things with a positive outlook.  

Its true I have no idea where my next paycheck is coming from but I am happier, freer and have more confident about myself than I ever had before.  True I might not seem to have a plan, since my plans often change as I leave myself open to opportunities. I do live in the present but don’t let that fool you, I do have plans, and much of my plans are making my dreams a reality, and not all my dreams are connected so it might seem random, but its not as random as you might think.  

Yes I have learned to speak my mind more and be more independent and even to debate global issues or social responsibility that I would have held back on expressing before.

True I am not needy but that doesnt mean I dont need other people or accept help. I have learned I can do things on my own, I am very capable, but have also learned that often things (like travel) are even better shared with others too.  

So maybe we are complicated, we look at things different and do things different. Or maybe thats just me as other travelers have often commented that I am "different".  But I am not afraid to be different either.   

I remember meeting a friend of a friend years ago who said to me I heard you like to travel, where have you been.  I spouted off what I thought was impressive at the time which was a handful of European countries, Cancun, and Aruba. And his eyes kinda glazed over and he quickly left to talk to someone else.  Later I found out he had extensively traveled the world, and now looking back I can see how he would have been pretty bored by my limited travel to what are considered safe and normal areas for young travelers.  Even now my travel pales in comparison to so many travelers I have met.  I have only been to maybe 35 countries, but I prefer to stay longer and get to know the culture and the people so it makes my travel often times slow because I am looking to learn and have experiences not just a checklist of the most I can see (not that I am against that or dont do sightseeing, I still love sightseeing).  I originally planned to travel the world but have hardly scratched the surface of the Americas.

I have met so many travelers that inspire me! Even with our high expectations, extreme passion for life and avoidance of the mundane and routine!

Ibarrra, Ecuador and back to Colombia - Tuquerres, Laguna verde, volcan azufral

I just had a wonderful day.  Having just arrived back in Colombia I am again reminded about how wonderful Colombians are.  Yesterday on the bus to border of Colombia in Ecuador the man next to me started talking to me and was from Colombia and when I asked him how much the bus fare was.. his answer... can you guess??? I will pay for you... After much back and forth and him trying to insist he finally let me pay.  Then another Colombian on the bus also offered to take me to my next destination but I explained to him that I had to go to both immigrations and I didnt want him to have to wait for me.

Yesterday I spent the morning in Ibarra in the north of Ecuador walking around the city and climbed up the to the arcangel viewpoint which overlooks the city and the lake.  The bus goes up to the viewpoint but I walked up then took the bus back to town for 25C.  There is a tourism office by the park Moncayo that gives out free maps and advice.   I stayed at Hotel Madrid for $9 a night for a nice room with a tv and private bath and they had wifi in the room.  Ibarra is about 2.5 hours from the northern bus terminal Quitumbe in Ecuador.  The bus costs about $2.5 and 20 cents for the terminal fee.
The bus station is just a short walk from the city center and markets.  The bus to Tulcan was $2.5 and they said it would take 2.5 hours but actually took over 3 to get to the bus terminal.   I got off at the terminal because that is where the collective van dropped me off when I arrived from Colombia to Ecuador.  But when I got to the bus terminal I was told that the collective vans leave from the park.  So I took a local bus (25 Cents) to the park and then took the collective van (75 cents) to the border.  You have to ask to let you off at immigration in Ecuador to get your stamp otherwise they go direct to immigration in Colombia cause locals just need their ID card and not their passport.  Both times the crossing was quite easy.. they two immigration posts are just a couple minutes walk from each other.  Then after there is a collective van to Ipiales bus terminal.  From the bus terminal in Ipiales  I went direct to Tuquerres since I had already been in Ipiales and seen the Lajas church.  

Arcangel viewpoint with the lake and city below

Below the arcangel, squinting cause of the sun!
 In case you havent realized by now I love maps.
Ibarra map from the tourism office

City center of Ibarra

To get to Tuquerres I took the collective taxi which cost 7,000 COP (~$4) but I heard you can haggle them down to 6,000COP.  It took about an hour to get to Tuquerres.  I stayed at hotel Inti Ande across from the Hyper market and it was 15,000 COP (~$8) with a shared bathroom. They had wifi and a kitchen too.  It was a perfect location as I was hungry and wanted food and there were a lot of bakeries, restaurants, street food and market right there.

Laguna verde & volcano Azufral
Volcano Azufral - hotel reception told me a taxi would cost around 20,000 COP (~$11) to get to the ranger station.  I was also told I could take a motorbike but the receptionist thought it would be around the same price and recommended taking the bus that leaves from the park and costs 1,000 COP but I would have to walk maybe 4KM to get to the ranger station and then 6 KM to the crater lagoon.  I had read on another blog someone was able to get a motorcycle to take him for 7,000 COP but just decided to go for the bus.   I had bought some food and water the night before and had all my warm clothes cause I heard it can get very cold at the crater.  The bus dropped me off and I walked for maybe 15 minutes and saw a house with guy standing next to a motorcycle and asked him if he would be willing to take me to the ranger station.  He said yes and when I asked how much he said 5,000 COP.  So I said ok since I wasnt sure how far it was, the receptionist had said it was 2 hours walking from the where the bus would let me off, but I thought that meant 2 hours walk to the ranger station.  He had to get gas so while I waited for him they invited me in for coffee.  I kept saying no but they insisted.  Then they brought me coffee and a muffin and some other bread type food. But I couldn’t eat it cause I had just eaten.  So after my coffee off we went.  We get to the ranger station and I register and pay the 1,000 COP to enter.  Then he goes back and forth with the rangers while they insist he cant drive past the ranger station saying he will damage his bike and he kept insisting that he wont so finally they say ok go ahead if you want.  So off we go to the top of the crater.  Its 4,000 meters high and the lagoon is nice though clouds sometimes float over obscuring the view so we waited till the view cleared and the sun came out and walked down a little ways.  He said it was a nice opportunity for him to go there cause he has only been a few times.  Then we ride back to where we had started from and of course they try to feed me and give me some coffee or juice while I wait for the bus to pass.  He puts me in what he referred to as the “bus” which was a car or taxi.  He said it goes by every half hour or something on market days and goes pretty much to the ranger station for just  1,000 COP but only on market days and today is Thursday which is a market day.  I am not sure why the receptionist didn’t tell me this but it’s the cheapest option on market days to get to the ranger station.  They dropped me off a half block from the park and I assume that is where it leaves from.    Well I didn’t get in any hiking since the guy drove me the whole way on his bike but I wasn’t too disappointed cause it was nice to have the company and he only asked 5,000COP but I gave him 7,000 COP after he would accept 10,000.  Both he and his family were so nice and were talking about how they would like to go to US sometime cause it looks so nice and different in the movies.  But I also told him that the movies aren’t always reality, not everyone lives in a mansion.  

beautiful bird that has bright blue under its wings

Laguna verde

laguna verde

Laguna verde has an altitude of 4,000 meters

From Tuquerres to Pasto took about 2 hours and cost 5,000 COP (~$3).  Although the lake is supposed to be nice here I decided I am going to get up early to take a 6am bus to Cali since it takes 8 hours and I heard that the buses are not always safe at night in the south of Colombia.  I walked around to look at some hotels near the bus station since to get into town is almost 20 blocks away and I am leaving early.  I ended up at Hotel Poala which was recommended by my guidebook lonely planet.  Its nothing great but it is 14,000 COP (~$8) for a private room with tv and bath and its very close to the bus station for an early morning bus. It has wifi in reception but they have to plug in the wifi router when you want to use it.  Around the bus station is pretty ugly, lots of motorcycle repair shops, but it has a huge market with lots of fruits and vegetables.

Monday, January 27, 2014


The view of the Basilica from my hotel

As the sun sets the Basilica lights up

Changing of the guards and President Correa
View of hill called Panecillo with the Virgin statue from my room

view of the Virgin statue from my hotel
Here are some photos taken from my hotel.  Quito has lots of hills and I feel like so many of the hotels are on hills.  I have stayed at, at least 4 hotels in Quito.  Two of them were on very steep hills.  But the hills also means there are many good views.  Quite a few of the hotels have nice roof decks like the Secret Garden in Old Town but is also on a bit of a hill.

Panecillo is a nice hike up.  It only took us 20 minutes and is pretty straight forward. We did not bring our cameras cause they said there have been many robberies there but it seemed OK.  Just be aware when going up. There are police stationed at the bottom of the stairs and the top.  A taxi ride they told us would be about $2 from Old Town to the top or vice versa.  

Today I was walking by Independence plaza and I saw a large crowd had gathered and found out they have the changing of the guards. So I stayed to watch but didnt have my camera with me.  President Correa came out for it.  After a while I left and got my camera but you couldnt see the president anymore though I think he was still there.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Pululau, Mitad del Mundo, Quito

Volcanic crater Pululalua

Volcan Pululahua the 5th largest crater in the world with a diameter of 5-6 kilometers and the second inhabited in the earth.  It is just a few minutes bus ride from Mitad del mundo and a 15 minute walk uphill to the viewpoint.  From the viewpoint you can take a taxi or hike into the crater. We took the bus from terminal carcelen in the north to mitad del mundo where it lets you off right in front of the monument. 

We took a taxi back to the the museum Intinan where the ecuator is.  Its a very touristy museum but still fun. 
We went to see the monument at Calacalio that is famous but was built a little to the south of the ecuator.  

Lots of birds in Mitad del Mundo

On the ecuator in Ecuador

Mitad Del Mundo monument
La Ronda street with a view of el Panecillo
 La Ronda is a pedestrian street that opens up at night and has lots of restaurants and cafes and live music. This used to be a dangerous area and now is very safe and touristy. I am staying just around the corner from here and love the area. I have stayed in three different hotels in an area between old and new town and while the hotels were nice, I love staying in Old town.  It is beautiful and there are always lots of options for food and drink.