Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Cabo De La Vela’

Places In My Past

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I want to try and milk this trip for as much content as I can, so the following is a list of the “Top Ten Places I Visited in South America”. They will be in order from #10 to #1 for dramatic effect, and some words may be repeated from previous posts. I hope you enjoy:

10. Volcán Puracé, Colombia

directions

directions

The scenery was stunning, but it is on here more for the climb. My most strenuous day, it took over 4 hrs to get to the top and the weather was unfriendly. Accomplishing something like that feels amazing and the Colombian hiking group that celebrated with me at the rim, made it even more memorable. The skies cleared for the descent and I strolled through an active sulfur mine. All things considered, one of my favorite days.

9. Puerto López – Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

The Isla was just OK and the town is not worth writing home about, but the stretch of ocean between the two seasonally contains some exciting mammals. The tour was expensive, but watching the whales jump in the air and splash around was one of the coolest things I have seen in my life.

8. Colca Canyon, Peru

canyon

canyon

The 2nd deepest canyon in the world. Basically just a great, strenuous hike with cool things to look at. On clear days, you can see the tops of the snowy peaks down 3,140 meters to the canyon floor. The Inca agricultural terracing and friendly locals make Colca my choice for #8.

7. Baños, Ecuador

A tourist ready town at the base of the active Volcán Tungurahua. The area has lots of hiking opportunities and even more extreme sport options, that I decided not to pay for. I just walked in search of eruption views. Occasionally, smoke would billow from the top and rumbles could be heard all over town. I found out later that the eruptions were rare, as not many other travelers reported seeing the impressive sight. As with a few other places I visited, I was there at the right time.

6. Isla del Sol, Bolivia

A high altitude island on Lake Titicaca. I could hike around all day and then rest my head for less than $3 per night. The ticket takers, with their greedy little hands, were annoying, but the weather was perfect and the wandering was boundary free.

5. Kuelap, Peru

good views

good views

An Inca fortress set on a hilltop, with great views of the surrounding valleys. I loved the site, but the fact that you can reach the place via a 3 hr hike from the town of Tingo, pushes it up my list.

4. Huaraz – Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Towering snow capped peaks, colorful mountain lakes, numerous hiking trails, this place is amazing. Just staring at the extreme heights of the place, containing 33 hunks of rock over 6,000 meters high, was cool. With more money and time, I could have explored the space better, but I was happy with my budget touring.

3. Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked to the edge of the crater, but that first view made me say “Wow!”. Staying in a hostal, steps from the rim and at an elevation of over 4,000 meters, I enjoyed it all. A spectacular hike circles around the crater lake and the bus rides between nearby towns are guaranteed to be memorable. The freezing cold temps at night can easily be fought off with an open fire.

2. Salar de Uyuni – Far SW Bolivia

My love for this place has been well documented, with it’s unreal scenery and unique wildlife. Why is it not at the top of my list? Because – I had to use a tour and memories of being painfully cold are still fresh in my head.

1. Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

Sunset

Sunset

Why it’s #1: If I had to choose one place to go back to and spend a week, this would be it. Multiple quiet beaches, warm weather, hammocks, climbing hills, a salt flat, unbelievable sunsets, and very few tourists. I was able to wake up everyday and decide between just laying on the beach, hiking a rugged coastline, or doing both. Put this place on your list, but only if you can handle the 2 hr ride out in the back of a truck and live without a shower for a few days.

2 + 2 = 5

Friday, May 21st, 2010

I have been worrying about money a lot lately. Forking over $11 for a dinner in Cabo and dropping $50 on a 13 hr bus ride to Medellin, I realize that I underestimated the costs of Colombia. I may have also overestimated my ability to haggle and patience to shop around.

I still have a lot to learn when it comes to finding the cheapest accommodations and food. Walking around with my pack after a hefty bus ride, I tend to pick a spot out of “Lonely Planet” and go with whatever price they offer me. I believe many of these hostels jack up their prices, once they see the constant flow of gringos one paragraph in a travel book provides. With my limited Spanish, I feel I lack the ability to properly scout the random non-published places. The Internet is a good alternative, and provided me with my current lodgings (free WiFi). Though, the owner said my room was double booked by different sites, thus I got a free “upgrade” to a room that was almost twice as much. When he showed me a room that barely fit the twin bed lying on the floor, I almost jokingly asked if my original room was smaller than this. The only difference I can see is that my new room comes with a 13 in., 2 channel TV.

I can’t help but feel skeptical about every price quoted to me and every friendly local. One instance in particular, a teen running a store counter in Cabo overcharged me a dollar despite my inquisitions about the price of each item. Not sure whether he added wrong or figured he could get whatever he wanted from me. Also; my hostel which had higher prices for us than what was in the menu, lemonade guy that has 2 sizes of plastic cups, and bus drivers that see how much you will pay. Those are the ones I have learned so far, but I am by no means done getting fleeced.

Today was a great exception to the life that has cost me $27 a day. Metro train to Medellin’s city center to see some sights, also led me to a massive, 2,500 stall, covered market. Many intimidating food options, packed with locals scarfing down large plates of sustenance. With no menus in sight, I almost wimped out and chose empanadas. I made eye contact with one cook and pointed to the soup in front of a man next to me. She said some things but I only heard the magic word “chorizo” and repeated it to her. The result: a huge set meal and pineapple juice for less than $2. I think the lesson here is to get away from the tourist areas, look for where the locals are gathered, and point.

Feeling good about myself and a little lucky, that night I went searching for a blackjack table. I found a $1 minimum game and settled in with my fellow degenerates. After a free cerveza, some live music, and a few fist bumps from table mates I couldn’t understand, I had won about $34 dollars. A very nice haul, amplified greatly by my current situation.

I capped the day with another reasonably priced meal, ($4.50 for pork, salad w/fruit, fries, arepa, and an Aguilla cerveza) at a non-menu establishment. Feeling pretty good right now, ready to tackle the next/last 30 days here in Colombia. Tomorrow, leaving the big city for the natural beauty around Salento. Se montó la gorda

Into The Great Wide Open

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

I love the smell of sunscreen in the morning; it smells like victory. Now, Cabo De La Vela is not your typical Caribbean paradise, lacking palm trees (or really any trees), beach chairs, and most of life’s luxuries. To me though, it is a wild, unfenced desert peninsula, ripe for exploration.

My trip began in the crazy, end of the paved road town called Uribia. The arrival of me and my pack sparked a friendly wrestling match between truck drivers, with the victor triumphantly jogging to his rig with me in tow. An exciting ride with occasional stops to drop and pick people up, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.

My first night was spent in a small hostel, with a group that I met on the ride in. They consisted of a German man, his Colombian wife, the wife’s friend, and 2 Swiss guys they met a week ago. The fellas all spoke good English, as well as Spanish, so they helped a lot, and once again I felt like a stupid monolingual American.

first night in Cabo

first night in Cabo

The accommodations were 6 hammocks strung up under a thatch roof, right on the beach. My translators helped procure a ride to see the nicer beaches out of town and a secret sunset spot. Fresh fish was twice cooked for us by the next door neighbor, which was expensive but very good. The group left the next morning, but it was good to do some drinking and socializing.

After their departure, I moved to a more gringo friendly hostel down the sand. The largest casa around, I got my own “room” with hammock and a friendly staff, none of which spoke my native tongue. Off the beach a little but still a good spot to swing and read. No real showers or mirrors made for a relaxing 6 days of not caring what I looked like, though I did take the occasional picture of myself to see how sunburnt my nose was getting or how wild my salt and sand filled hair looked.

the room got raked once a day

the room got raked once a day

As far as activities, for me that was easy once I saw the vast landscape. I made a goal of hiking to the top of every high point and succeeded. Throw in a cool salt flat, nice beaches, and a dramatic coastline, and I wore myself out. I alternated hiking and reading days, always with a healthy dose of salt water.

A typical hiking day started at 9 am with a general direction. I looked for sticks to protect myself from a possible sheep/goat attack, because I know that one day all livestock will rise up against their human oppressors and just want to be ready. We gave each other enough space as I made my way from one pinnacle to the next. My favorite stretch was along the northern coastal ridge-line, dropping some 100 meters straight down to the waters below. These are my ideal hiking conditions: 360 degrees views unobstructed by trees, gradual ups and downs, wind cooled, ocean views, changing rock formations, swim breaks, and all to myself.

My playground

My playground

The other positive aspect of Cabo is the type of travelers it draws. Not a party destination though it is a kite surfing spot, I met some laid back blokes. With only about 15-20 gringos in town at a time, I often saw the same few people wandering around and exchanged the usual hello. One night a group of 3 outgoing British girls moved in next door and we joined with another group of 3 (a Dane, a Deutchlandian and his UK girlfriend; all kiters) for some drinks until our servers wanted to go to sleep (10pm). Always good to hear from people on the same path.

There were still a few hawkers roaming the beach, but as opposed to the bigger cities, they were all soft spoken indigenous women. I decided to purchase myself one of their bracelets, thinking that it could serve as sort of a wedding ring, letting them know that I have made my decision and am off the market. Though I did not take into account the opposite effect. Apparently, a man with a bracelet is a more attractive customer, showing that one is willing to go all the way. Initially, I took offense to the notion that I look like a multiple bracelet type of guy, and that they thought I could juggle 2 or 3 at a time. But I had to consider the practical applications of having alternate versions. Maybe one day I get tired of my first bracelet, after time has taken it’s toll or it is tragically lost while swimming. At that point, I would be happy that I had one on the side, so that I wouldn’t have to go back out there and play the game, especially if I am advanced in years. Thus, I must admit that I picked myself up a 2nd one that is a slimmer version of the first. I think it will look better on my arm in the more hip, metropolitan cities like Medellin and Cali.

By the end of my 6 days, the desire to shower was high, mass amounts of Colombian tourists were arriving for the holiday weekend, I had finished reading “Crime and Punishment”, and my shoes were falling apart: I was ready to leave. Awaken at 4 am to catch the truck back to civilization, I left a small bag of batteries and forgot to latch my luggage lock, which is now in the middle fo the desert (sorry Dad, it was yours).

After 14 hrs of transit, I am now in Cartegena, a beautiful walled colonial city by the sea. A few too many ritzy tourist cafes and shops, a little too hot, and a little too expensive, but overflowing with street food: I am spending 2 nights here before another long haul down to Medellin. Agua salada adiós, hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo.

Don´t Drink The Water

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Checking in from Riohacha, a nice quiet city with a huge windy beach: I figured since I haven’t been doing all that much the past couple days, I would use this time to post about what I have been putting into my mouth. I touched on it a little last post and feel the need to elaborate. I apologize for the lack of pics, this computer doesn’t seem to like my camera. Let’s get started.

With my early physical exercise and now draining heat, liquids have been consumed in mass quantities. Agua, or water to you guys, is not as cheap as I would desire, thus I have been toying with the multiple ways it can be purchased. I began by buying the normal 600ml plastic bottles, that range from 75 cents to $1.25.  After seeing how fast I went through them I tried some other forms: 5 L jug which works for extended stays, 1.5 L bottle which is a little big for my day bag, and now the various sizes of water in a bag (similar to ice packs). The bag version is very cheap but must be transferred to a bottle to be portable. So, as you see, I have put a lot of thought into my agua consumption that I believe will help me throughout my entire trip.

Other liquids consumed are: The occasional cerveza (beer, cheapest styles are Aguila and Poker), Gatorade (a little expensive, but if you believe the ads, a necessary luxury), Jugos (fruit juices, such as lemonade or the rare smoothie con leche), and various flavors of soda (Orange is my favorite, I am similar to the Waponi in that way).

Now to the solid stuff: Trying to keep my costs down, I have sought out street food more often than a sitdown restaurante. The result has been a somewhat negative view of the food here in Colombia. While I still feel like the food in general here is below par, I have softened my stance a little over the past couple days. On Saturday in Santa Marta, I hit up a small place that was recommended by Lonely Planet. Serving only Ceviche, they do it extremely well. I orderd the 10 oz Combinado, which contained shrimp and other unknown fish, served in a white dixie cup with saltine crackers. I knew by the hord of locals sitting out front, silently spooning out the contents of their cups, that it would be good and it truly was. I walked mine down a block to the beach and sat there feeling ashamed for blasting this country’s cuisine without giving it a fair shot. In hindsight, the $5 cost of my dinner was worth it and now I will allow myself to indulge every now and then.

I have since sampled another ceviche stand and today sat down for an almuerzo ejecutivo (loosely, a set meal), which included some fish soup and a plate with chicken, rice, beans, and salad.  With the quality and availability of empanadas declining here on the coast, I see my palate expanding with hopefully positive results.

The fast/cheap foods that I have been putting down have mainly been of the fried variety. Empanadas, with my favorite being the pollo con arroz (chicken with rice), is still the favorite of the fast stuff.  Another one I enjoy is like a beef stew wrapped in a fried bread ball. Very hearty, with mashed potatoes and corn. An Arepa is the last of the fried stuff that I will acknowledge, it’s a flat corn tortilla like bread often filled with a fried egg, a good breakfast. I have sworn off the chorizo for a while, which normally was served with potatoes, due to some unenjoyable texture and suspect content.

Pizza has been tried twice, with last nights being quite good. A Hawaiian style that actually had a decent crust. They sell hamburgers a few places but I have yet to attempt since they are overpriced. Though I did try one hotdog wrapped in bread like a corndog, with positive results.  Overall, I guess I would say that I am mostly just disappointed with the quality of the cheap street food and that if you fork over a little more, you can get some decent grub.

Tomorrow, I hope to be in Cabo De La Vela and off the grid. You shant hear from me again until I am back in civilization. The small village runs on generators and has no WiFi hotspots.  The government convinced the Wayou people to set up tourist accommodations and to not kill gringos. Should be a good time.  Te veo en el otro lado