A Travellerspoint blog

September 2011

Popayán & San Agustín

Finally in beautiful Colombia

semi-overcast 26 °C
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We spent all of last Wednesday, 14th September, travelling from Otavalo to Popayán in Colombia. After a relatively easy, but slow, border crossing, 2 bus, 1 colectivo and 3 taxi rides, we finally arrived at our destination just before midnight.

The next day I explored Popayán a bit, a nice colonial city, with loads of white buildings and many nice coffee shops. In one of those coffe shops I discovered a 'Café Luxemburgo' on the menu. I did not try it, but it sounds good, it contains amaretto :)
Popayán

Popayán


Popayán

Popayán


A Luxembourgish coffee? <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

A Luxembourgish coffee? :)

I met a New Zealander in Popayán who I knew from the Navimag ferry in Chile in March and who I had met again in Sucre and Quito. He was going to San Agustín the next day together with some other people from the hostel. Since I had already been thinking about visiting San Agustín, I decided to go with them.

The next day, at 6 in the morning, 5 of us got on a bus heading East. Luckily, the journey was faster than expected, so that we arrived after 'only' 6 hours on the bumpy road. We checked into the hostel we had chosen, which was a Swiss-owned hostel in beautiful surroundings on a hill outside of town, where we had our own shared cabin.

When we had settled in, we headed to one of the archaeological parks around town where part of the statues the area is famous for can be seen. The statues were found in tombs all around the area, but not much is known about the culture that made them or what they mean.

We were pretty impressed by the statues and by the landscapes they are set in. The statues represent humans, animals and gods and some of them we spectulated were vampires because of their long teeth ;-)
San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues


San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues


San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues


San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues

That night, we cooked a nice dinner and had a relaxing night in the quiet setting of our hostel.

The next day, we took a tour of some of the remaining archaelogical sites and the surrounding area. We saw more of the statues, visited a river and a 400m high waterfall.
Landscapes around San Agustín

Landscapes around San Agustín

Estrecho del Rio Magdalena

Estrecho del Rio Magdalena


Natural fridge

Natural fridge


San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues


San Agustín statues

San Agustín statues


Lulo fruit on the tree

Lulo fruit on the tree


Salto de Bordones

Salto de Bordones

The tour was very nice and interesting, but at the end we were all tired of seeing so many things, so that when it came to visiting another waterfall for which we would have had to pay an entrance fee as well, most of the group decided to not go see the fall, but stay at the restaurant at the entrance and have a refreshing beer instead.
A beer instead of a waterfall

A beer instead of a waterfall

The next morning, I got on the bus back to Popayán and then on to Cali together with the New Zealander I know from Chile while the others were either travelling on in another direction or stayed in San Agustin for an extra night or two.

A few more lines about some things I have discovered about Colombia in these few days:
- There is army and police everywhere. On the road to San Agustín, we saw large groups of soldiers in several spots, I have already gotten into 2 army and 1 police check on the buses and even in the towns you can see heavily armed soldiers on many street corners.
- There are a lot of horses around, even in big cities. People either ride them or they are used to pull carts used as a kind of taxi.
- Colombians love pink. You can see a lot of people wearing pink everywhere. The most extreme example was the Colombian on our tour around San Agustín: she was wearing a pink top and gym trousers, with matching white and pink trainers and socks.
- The cars and taxis are more modern than in most South Amercian countries
- It is finally hot again! :)

Posted by sarahm_lux 15:02 Archived in Colombia Tagged popayan san_agustín Comments (0)

Otavalo

A market and a lagoon

sunny 22 °C
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The main attraction of Otavalo is the handicraft market which is on every day, but is biggest on Wednesday and Saturday. So when we arrived in Otavalo (me and an Australian I had met in a few places now so that we decided to travel up to Otavalo and into Colombia together), we went to see the market first. It was not as special as we had expected, but it was a nice market.

Much more impressive though was the lagoon in a volcano crater not far from town, Laguna Cuicocha. The water was an amazing blue and the rim of the crater was beautifully green.

Laguna Cuicocha

Laguna Cuicocha


Laguna Cuicocha

Laguna Cuicocha


Laguna Cuicocha and the volcano Cotacachi

Laguna Cuicocha and the volcano Cotacachi


view from the rim of the crater

view from the rim of the crater

Posted by sarahm_lux 11:47 Archived in Ecuador Tagged otavalo cuicocha Comments (0)

Quito

overcast 19 °C
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Quito is a bit of a dodgy place; you hear a lot of stories about people getting robbed and nobody goes out alone (and in most areas not even in a group) after dark. Nothing like that happened to me luckily, but I did get chased and almost bitten by a stray dog...

Being in a big city, it was time for some sightseeing again. I visited the old town with all its nice colonial buildings. I went to the Museo del Banco Central, where some incredible pottery from ancient Ecuadorian cultures is exhibited, amongst other interesting things. I also went to the Basilica, where you can climb up into the towers to have nice views over Quito. The last cultural place I visited was San Francisco, a beautiful church and convent in the old town.
Old town

Old town


Quito seen from the Basilica

Quito seen from the Basilica


San Francisco church

San Francisco church


Quito seen from the hostel's terrace

Quito seen from the hostel's terrace

There is a cable car in Quito which takes you onto one of the hills from where you can usually enjoy nice views of the city. Unfortunately when I went up there, it was very cloudy and then a proper storm started, so that we did not really get any good views at all :(

I also went to the Mitad del Mundo, the equator line running just North of Quito. In the museum you get some information on different cultures from Ecuador and displays on their way of living, and you get demonstrations of strange effects that you can see on the equator: water does not swirl when flowing down a drain, but falls straight down; apparently it is easier to balance an egg on a nail than elsewhere in the world; it is harder to walk straight with your eyes closed because of different forces pulling you to either side. I am not sure which of these were tricks and what was true, but one other demonstration we found quite impressive: on the equator line our guide could suddenly really easily open our fingers that we held pressed together or push down our arms while we were pushing them up.
Shrunken head

Shrunken head


On the equator line

On the equator line

When in Quito on the weeked, you cannot really get around going out. So of course, I did go out...every night. The first night, me and my dormmates won the pub quiz in the hostel and we ended up having a night full of crazy dancing in a club. The next night, it was time for the same club again with some other people. It did not get quite as crazy that night, but we had loads of fun too. On Saturday, a big group of people from the hostel (about 25 I think) all went out together. We actually got on a party bus to bring us to Mariscal, the area where all the bars and clubs are. After drinks in the Irish pub, we went to a club and danced the night away again. My last night in Quito was a Sunday night. This was much more quiet because there is a law in Ecuador that no alcohol can be served after 4pm. Of course there's always a way to get some drinks though...
After the pub quiz

After the pub quiz

Posted by sarahm_lux 19:11 Archived in Ecuador Tagged quito mitad_del_mundo Comments (0)

Latacunga

A lagoon and a volcano

overcast 19 °C
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On Monday, I came to Latacunga to visit the lagoon Quilotoa and the volcano Cotopaxi.

I started with the lagoon on Tuesday. Together with a Spanish guy from the hostel I took a bus and taxi there. We got stuck with the bus at a roadwork site for over an hour which was of course annoying, but eventually we made it there. We went up to the mirador from where we had great views over the beautiful lagoon. We then walked down into the crater till we reached the water. Here we enjoyed the views over the blue-green water while having lunch before hiking back up. A really nice day!
Quilotoa

Quilotoa

Quilotoa

Quilotoa

Yesterday, I took a tour to Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Unfortunately, the weather was really bad. It was very cloudy the whole day; on the way up it was even hailing and then snowing. We thus did not get any really good views of the volcano and the walk up to the refuge was pretty hard (altitude: 4810m). Because of this I decided to stay at the refuge, while others walked further up to the glacier. On top of the bad weather, we had a guide who was not very good. He did not introduce himself, he did not wait for people or check whether they are doing alright, his English was bad and his explanations were useless... So he was just someone to show us the way up.
Walking up Cotopaxi

Walking up Cotopaxi


At the refuge

At the refuge

On the walk down we saw some foxes that live on the mountain. This was probably the most exciting part of the day ;-)
Fox on Cotopaxi

Fox on Cotopaxi

When we were back in the car we did get some better views of the volcano though, so at least we got to see what it looked like.
Cotopaxi

Cotopaxi

Today I will travel on to Quito.

Posted by sarahm_lux 07:42 Archived in Ecuador Tagged cotopaxi quilotoa latacunga Comments (0)

The Ecuadorian Jungle

Butterflies, exotic fruits and canoe rides

semi-overcast 30 °C
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On Thursday, 1st September I made my way to Macas from where the jungle tour would start the next morning. We got brought by taxi to the spot in the jungle about 1 1/2 hours from Macas where we were going to spend the next 2 nights. We were going to stay with a Shuar family together with only 2 other tourists. After a walk down from the road to the river and a canoe ride across, we reached the family's house. It was a beautiful and quiet location next to the river, in the primary jungle. I immediately loved the place because it was crowded with butterflies!
Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Beautiful butterflies in the jungle

Shortly afterwards however, we realised that the trip was not very well organised. The other 2 group members only arrived 3 hours after us and then the guide still did not show up. He eventually arrived at 3.30 pm and then first had to put up our tent before starting the first activity.
Part of the house

Part of the house


Our hut

Our hut

Finally we went on a walk through the jungle with the guide which was one of the family's sons. It was great to be walking through the jungle for the first time! The next 2 days 3 more walks and a canoe ride would follow. We also visited a waterfall under which we could go swimming and every day went bathing in the river just next to the house.
The Jungle

The Jungle


The Jungle

The Jungle


The Jungle

The Jungle


The Jungle

The Jungle


Waterfall

Waterfall


Flower lips

Flower lips

Every time we went into the jungle, we had our faces painted or got to wear some traditional headdress.
Painted faces

Painted faces


Jungle outfit ;-)

Jungle outfit ;-)

There are not many animals in this part of the jungle, but we saw a lot of butterflies, different types of ants (some huge!), birds, some spiders and frogs.
Poisonous spider on our guide's hand

Poisonous spider on our guide's hand

What we did see a lot of were medicinal plants which they explained to us and different types of fruits, some of which can only be found in the jungle. Of course we got to try these too. Our guide even felled a whole palm tree just to give us the fresh palm hearts to eat.
Banana tree

Banana tree


Fresh palm hearts

Fresh palm hearts

What we also got to try were larvae, live ones! I did try it (not the whole thing though, just a bite) and it was not even bad.
Eating a larva

Eating a larva

On our first day, the father also shot a deer which was then dragged down the hill to the house, cut into pieces and roasted on the fire during the whole night. The meat was delicious; we ate it for breakfast and lunch the next day.
Deer roasting on the fire

Deer roasting on the fire

We also went and fished a bit in the river, but those fish were given to the mother as a little snack.

We had different guides during the 2 days, but all of them were family members, 2 of the sons and the father. The meals we all had with the family as well, but unfortunately we did not get many traditional foods. The boys did however go fishing and came back with loads of fish which I then watched being prepared and cooked in big leaves. We got those served for breakfast on the last day.
Freshly caught fish

Freshly caught fish


Boy playing with the freshly caught fish

Boy playing with the freshly caught fish


Fish being cooked in leaves

Fish being cooked in leaves


Fish cooked in a leaf

Fish cooked in a leaf

The family was very nice and, although the organisation was bad and we ended up not even spending 2 full days exploring the jungle while paying for 3 days, I enjoyed being in the jungle a lot.

The journey back to Baños was a bit adventurous, but we eventually made it back fine.

Posted by sarahm_lux 19:28 Archived in Ecuador Tagged jungle Comments (0)

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