Country number 2. Ecuador certainly has a lot to live up to. We have been in Quito for 2 days now and initial impressions are good! Firstly, Quito is at just under 3000m, this means its cool. In fact I have worn trousers and a jumper today for the first time in a few weeks and it was actually pretty nice!
We are staying in the old town which is pretty. Lots of plazas, churches, museums in old colonial buildings.
We have been up the telforico, which is basically like a ski cable car that takes you to 4100m, up over the city. Amazing views. You can then climb up a further 600m to the peak of the mountain. I think we made it about halfway. By this stage we were walking in the clouds which is cold and not so great for the view. Also the altitude makes it pretty tough, this is what it must feel like to be chronically unfit!
Howere, the walk was totally worth it. Just near the top of the cable car we found basically an outdoor barbeque, which was serving these amazing kebabs and hot chocolate. After 2 seperate families had asked to have their photos taken with us we got the feel that this was more of a local food spot than a gringo one!
Last night in Quito tonight, although I think I end up returning here 4 times in total. Off to a town called Otavalo tomorrow first thing.
Our final destination in Columbia was a place called Minca, just up in the mountains, so a little cooler which we thought would be nice. Lonely planet told us you get decent coffee and great bird watching. I certainly wasn’t holding my breath in excitement.
As it turned out Minca is a little gem. We had been recommended a place to stay called Oscar’s place, which only publicises itself by word of mouth. We had to ask a few people how to get there and even then it was 20mins walk from the road, uphill and across a stream. However, once we arrived it was worth it. My photos do not do the view justice
All you can see is rainforest and it is set on a cliff. Oscar, the owner, is incredibly frienly and within a few hours of being there you just feel at home. We visited a coffe plantation which was really interesting as the entire farm and machinery was all drien by water pressure. No electricity at all.
In the evening all the guests have dinner together, then Oscar taught us how to play backgammon.
The next day was spent mainly looking at the amazing view, i was lucky enough to seea toucan! Managed to find some people who are basically doing a similar route through South America which was great. Then it was time to leave. If i had a choice i would have stayed in Minca for a few more days, but sadly our schedule would not permit.
This also brought us to the end of our time in Columbia. Country number 1 done!
The last 5 days we have spent in a national park on the Caribbean coast. We spent the first night in, relative, luxury at this hotel perched on a cliff over the sea. It gave the feel that your bedroom was out at sea, turns out this is pretty noisy! If you looked in the opposite direction there was dense rainforest, which certainly made sunset views beautiful.
Our following nights were spent in hammocks, not something I think I would ever get used to! However, the stunning Caribbean coast line more than makes up for it. The amazing part is that if you are prepared to walk a couple of bays around you end up with your own private beach, which is pretty nice.
Our time was not all spent sunbathing, we trekked between each campsite we stayed in and spent a day trekking up to some ruins, up what felt like a mountain but was probably a large hill. We spent a couple of days with guy called Chris who we met one night. As it turns out he not only went to Durham, he also is from Yorkshire. It really is a small world!
We decided to exit the park in style, taking a boat back to Taganga, a short drive from our start point of Santa Marta. I was expecting a nice sedate boat ride back, the reality was a speedboat ride back through the waves. I think Andy may have a very nice video of me screaming as the first of many waves hit me!
We arrived into Santa Marta last night, Wednesday evening, by bus. On arrival it certainly lacked the beauty of Cartagena, but it makes up for it with charm. Santa Marta is a popular Columbian holiday destination, and that helps it to be a bustling town as well as a busy port. There are lots of great restaurants and a great beach, our first dip into the Caribbean sea!
This a picture from a nearby hacienda, which had these amazing botanical gardens, art by local artists and lots of historical stuff about Simon Bolivar (for the uneducated, that was me a few hours ago, he was key in the liberating of Columbia and othe countries from colonial ruling). Also, they had giant lizards in the gardens.
Tomorrow, Friday, we head into the Tahrona national park to do some further exploration of the Caribbean coast.
We arrived into Cartagena by flight at around 11pm. The first thing that hits you is a wall of heat. Cartagena is hot, day and night, and very sunny. For us lily white brits it has taken some getting used to!
I can highly recommend Cartagena, it is a beautiful, walled city that sits directly on the coast and is steeped in history. We explored the city by walking the walls and the narrow streets of the old town. We had a lovely evening watching sunset over the caribbean sea at a bar on top of the walls, see picture below.
Andy, Holly, Thomas (our new recruit) and I decided it was essential for us to get matching bracelets in the Columbian flag colours. We thought this would be cool. Please see below…
So, we arrived late on Saturday night after what felt like a very long journey. We leave tonight for Cartagena, the coast, tonight after 2 days exploring in Bogota. We climbed a mountain, see picture above of the 3 of us at the top. We have had more coffee than I have ever had and enjoyed the sunshine. Nice place, a bit rough around the edges, but with incredibly patient people who give allowances for dubious spanish!