South America

//South America

Mancora to Huaraz – The Two Faces of Peru

After action-packed Ecuador in rather frigid temps, a few days on the beach in Peru was more than welcomed. The only obstacle was another eight-hour roller coaster of a bus ride to get there, but I needed some heat and sand and something to drink with an umbrella in it fast, so I braved the night bus from Cuenca, Ecuador to Mancora, Peru. Normally I wouldn't be so skiddish on a night bus, but I have heard Peru's were notorious for getting your bag slit and all your valuables ripped off, even with it right at your feet. Or worse....I've heard you'll have some cute little old lady sit next to you who offers you "special" cookies...and you wake up in a near coma with everything gone including your dignity. I never actually met anyone these things happened to, but there are a ton of warnings in the travel blogesphere, [...]

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Quito

My first day in Quito should have been a hint that this stop was going to be...exciting. I was walking in Old Town for no more than 20 minutes when I heard the crowds. I followed the noise all the way to Plaza de la Independencia and sure enough, the whole city of Quito seemed to be there. Apparently every Monday the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, makes an impassioned speech from his balcony, touching on the notions of national unity and democracy and basically how good of a job he's doing with both. And I guess each Monday there are throngs of supporters and opponents alike, waving flags and screaming various declarations with equal fervour. I was a bit alarmed by the dozens of police as well as those in full riot gear, but a waiter at a nearby cafe told me it was no big deal. it's an [...]

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Surviving the Bus from Colombia to Ecuador

A long trek across countries isn't always torture. I've done plenty, and I will do more. However, multiple bus rides that last three days and total about 30 hours is pretty darn close. Nonetheless, Colombia to Ecuador can be done with relative ease if you keep your wits about you and exercise as much patience as is humanly possible on a trip that long. I left Medellin to go two hours south to the small city of Santa Barbara to visit a friend's family for a few days. I figured I was going in the direction of Ecuador so it would lighten my overall travel time when I left. Ummm, no. Since Santa Barbara is in the middle of the Colombian boonies, closer to Ecuador made no bloody difference; direct buses to Cali (my first stop) apparently don't leave from Santa Barbara or any where nearby, for that matter. And so the fun [...]

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Medellin

As we continued downward, I thought for sure I was going to throw up. My mouth was watering, and I could feel my stomach churning to make its move. Any minute disaster was going to strike all over my lap, and I was powerless to stop it. I couldn't believe that a simple ride from Medellin airport into the downtown core consisted of driving down what felt like a spiral staircase at record speeds. For an hour. I've actually never been good in cars or buses or trains or planes for that matter. I sometimes get vertigo just lying stationary. Yup, motion sickness has afflicted me since I can remember, and I've had many an embarrassing vomit sesh. And this was going to be no exception if I didn't get off this frickin' roller coaster toute suite. My brother once told me that mint helps cure nausea; so there I [...]

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A Day in Guatapé

Sometimes when you're in a big city some of the best things to do actually entail getting the hell out of said city, even if you love it there. About two hours by bus from Medellin is the hidden gem of Guatapé, population: who-the-heck-knows. Its most famous tourist attraction is the ginormous monolithic formation La Piedra Del Peñol or El Peñol for short. People come in droves to climb this amazing rock and delight in the breathtaking views of the area; however, the nearby town of Guatapé is also worth a visit. The trip from Medellin is pretty simple and a perfect day trip. The bus departs from the north bus terminal in Medellin and costs a peazily 6$ CAN. It lets you off in front of this gas station in the even smaller town of El Peñol, where you have about a 200-meter uphill climb before you get to the rock [...]

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Cartagena

I've been to a lot of hot places - Tanzania at the height of summer, Cambodia during monsoon season, Haiti on a long bus ride with the windows closed, but I think this last week in Cartagena might possibly take the cake. I can only guess that the intense heat is because it is so close to the ocean or perhaps the sun shines a bit brighter on such an incredible city and people. Aside from nearly melting while lying at the beach, walking the city, drinking, eating, sleeping, and breathing, Cartagena is well worth a trip. And although it was my first of many stops in Colombia, I have a feeling it will be the most distinct. Of course, it's overwhelming Latin, but in many respects, it feels just as Caribbean as so much of the music and food are Caribbean-inspired and the people are every beautiful brown hue [...]

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