Micah: Unmitigated

|

Not just another weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Cali’

Same Old Song And Dance

Monday, November 8th, 2010

In Otavalo: I shopped, caught a bit of a cold, and ate market lunches. I had one interesting night amongst locals while eating dessert Empanadas and drinking a warm berry beverage. Two giggly young woman to my right, seemed to be making fun of the fact I was dunking my emps. The young man with them and an older lady to my left, asked me some simple questions and I gave them very simple answers. Mostly just smiling and nodding, while they said “gringo” a lot and laughed. The man somewhat jokingly said that I should pay for all of their food. I showed him my near empty coin purse. Then,when I handed the server money to pay for my snack, I pointed at myself and said “Solo para me”. They all laughed healthily and I departed with a bang.

Feeling better Sunday morning, despite no medicine and little sleep, I began my journey toward Bogota. 2 buses and 2 mini-vans later, I was at the border. The skies opened up, rain poured down, lightning strikes could be seen in the distance. I should have known what was coming. My passport was handed to the man in uniform behind the window, he looked at passport, looked at screen, shook his head, showed me screen, I just nodded and said “Entiendo” (I understand), trying to explain what I went through 4 days ago. Apparently, nothing had been updated yet in the computer. I still had only an entry into Ecuador back in June listed, no exit and reentry.

I was told many things: You wont be able to enter Colombia, you will miss your flight, you need to return to Peru, wait over there, go make 2 copies of each of these 3 pages, Amigo! make sure you come back (at this point I was a flight risk, hinting to him that I may go on without an exit stamp), wait, now you need to pay money for stamp, my boss is back in town and gas is not cheap (I said I don’t want to pay), wait, maybe tomorrow. Man then takes my passport again and heads out the door with 2 other officers, they hop into a small red car and go. I wait and watch as the now undermanned station gets busy. Tourists come and go with no problems. I feel somewhat special, but also am very worried. Again, thoughts of alternative methods of getting to Bogota/Home, run through my mind: I really don’t need a stamp, do I? Would it do any good if I jumped the unattended counter and messed around on the computer? What if I physically attacked one of the officers and held him hostage, as I crossed the border? Nah, probably would have an issue later at the airport. Do they run illegal immigrants over on boats to Florida?

Just as I was about to execute one of the above plans, the 3 men return. I am waved over to the counter and handed my passport. He shows me the stamp and says go to Colombia. 3 hours after I enter the office, I can now legally leave. I still doubt the computer system is accurate, and wonder if I will ever be able to enter Ecuador again. There may be a manhunt for me in a year or so, when they look in the system and think that I am still there. If any of you are ever questioned by the authorities concerning my whereabouts, please say that I took a trip to South America and you haven’t seen me since. Thanks

Colombia was easier. After a brief 10 minute wait and being told the system was down, my passport was stamped. I again had to sort through lies from taxi drivers to get my cheap public transport. From the closest town of Ipiales, I booked my passage for the city of Cali (11 hrs north, halfway to the capital) because it is cheaper than going direct. Suffered through a muggy night bus ride, worried about bandits, but got to watch “Jaws”.

Arrived at 5 am: rain is falling, booked a night bus to Bogota, oddly combined my 2 large bags into 1 to avoid paying double for storage, killed time in casinos and walking streets. I found a cheap Blackjack table but had one of the weirdest experiences. They don’t believe in luck, and preferred to blame all of their defeats on the white guy. Whether I took 1 card too many or too few, I made an error and affected the whole table. One man lost a big hand to my left and really wanted the 10 I took, which busted me. He was visibly angry toward me. I am just glad I don’t fully understand what they said, though I do know a few of the curse words they used. They don’t like to gamble, and take advantage of the “surrender” rule frequently. I don’t agree and rarely did. That rule is not common back home and I admit that I don’t know how to properly use it. But I don’t feel I made any stupid moves. I just sat there quietly as my stack dwindled. It was fun but also very uncomfortable.

Safe to say, I am on a run of bad days. Hopefully I can get some sleep on the ride tonight and smoothly get into a hostal in central Bogota. I am looking forward to doing the city a little better these last 3 days, than I did with the first 3. ¿Dónde está el mercado central?

E = 193

Electioneering

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Mockus para Presidente! Pledging to change politics-as-usual, bring transperancy to the office, and continue to stand firmly on his pro-environment platform. It is Election Day down here in Colombia, and they have their own multi-ethnic, internet savvy candidate who is firing up the younger generation via Facebook. Representing the Green Party, Antanas Mockus seems set to unseat the current administration and their chosen successor, Juan Manuel Santos.

Mockus is giving you the thumb

Mockus is giving you the thumb

Many Colombian’s believe they are ready for a government which does more than just quell gorilla attacks. Though, I personally would like to thank their current leader for making this beautiful country very safe for travel. For me at the moment though, it all adds up to being stuck in Popayan with sites already seen. Thus, I would like to share the following message with you, my constituents.

Next time you get the urge to travel, make Colombia one of your candidates. I am not yet giving it my full endorsement, but do believe it is worth a look. For example, it’s well preserved colonial neighborhoods that are fun to stroll around in. Like Cali’s San Antonio district and Popayan’s Centro, which are filled with white walls and red roofs. Something about these areas just feels safe and peaceful. You can wander aimlessly, looking at churches and museums.

Streets of Popayan

Streets of Popayan

Every city also seems to have a hill, topped with a shrine or monument, allowing panaramic views. In Cali it is called “Cerro De Las Tres Cruces”, a steep, 1+ hour climb to three large white crosses, communication towers, and some weightlifting equipment. An interesting site to see, with a number of exercise buffs who seem to make the trek on a regular basis. Decent views at the top, better on the alternate way down.

Last night, it was “El Morro de Tulcan” in Popayan, a grassy knoll providing great views of the old town and sunset.

Top ó Hill

Top ó Hill

That pretty much sums up my last 2 cities, walking around the old towns and checking out every accessible vista. In Cali, I stayed in a dorm at the biggest hostel in town and got to witness the true Lonely Planet backpacker crowd. My Aussie roomates had an interesting sleep schedule, grabbing supper at 11 pm and heading out to the clubs at 1 am, a routine I was not able to follow. The next night, the election weekend “no party” period began, and I watched the Celtics/Magic game with some guys from a New Mexico.

Today in Popayan: I got to sleep in, my laundry is drying, plus I enjoyed some of the finest empanadas so far, which came with a spicy avocado sauce.

Mañana: The plan is to catch a bus to Tierradentro, a collection of ruins and tombs surrounded by stunning scenery. Five hours off the main hwy down to Ecuador, the area contains a few sites to see, like San Agustin and some small desert place. Thus, I may be out there for a while and am unsure if it’s wired. Feliz Día de la Recordación

E = 35

Going Back to Cali

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Since my last communication with all of you, I have been in the mountains with mixed results. I also feel the need to add the following note: I am having a great time, even though everything may not workout as planned. That being said, here is a quick recap of the past week.

Salento, Colombia: Small mountain town, gateway to the Valle de Cocora, and a weekend getaway spot for well-to-do Colombians. Arriving there on a Saturday, I saw it in full bloom. Tents filled the plaza square and young men tried to force menus through car windows. I enjoyed walking the one main street and the cooler temperatures.

I woke up early Sunday to check out the Valle de Cocora, filled with towering Wax Palm trees and cloud covered forest. After the jeep ride out to the Cocora, I joined up with the only other foreigner in sight to walk around. A young lady who just happened to be a UW graduate from Seattle. Despite our rivalry, we walked the first hour or so together, before the trail got too dificult for her unlaced keds. She was a short timer, taking a month vacation after quitting her job and before sarting an international masters program in South Carolina. After we parted ways, the trail reminded me of hiking in the Pacific NW, following a river in thick green forest with cloudy skies. At the end of the path, a lodge served me a splendid tea with a piece of cheese and hummingbirds for entertainment.

The route back was down an access road and provided amazing valley views.

Valle de Cocora

Valle de Cocora

And also provided me with the opportunity to get up close and personal with the Wax Palm trees.

that´s me in the middle

that´s me in the middle

Arriving back in Salento, a little bit of water began to fall from the sky, blocking any views from the hill in town, which I climbed for some reason.  Leaving the next morning, the sky couldn’t have been clearer and I contemplated staying another day, but pressed on to my next mountain destination.

Pance, Colombia: Very small mountain town that is more of a summer camp/resort type of destination. The journey there was difficult, mostly due to the 30 minutes I spent walking around the Cali bus station, looking for the bus because of an unhelpful info desk. Upon arrival in Pance, I had to trust the old lady I asked for directions, and continue the hike uphill. My lodgings were a large nature reserve, that hugs the Rio Pance. They showed me a tent where I could lay may head and told me that their casa was my casa.

the grounds

the grounds

In the pic above, my campsite is at the top of the open field. In the background, you can see a glimpse of the mountains that tower above. It was a quiet place, besides the hippies that lived there playing bongos at night and singing ¨Me gusta marijuana!¨.  I did a few hikes: one to a nearby waterfall and the other toward the peaks, but in the rain so no views. It rained a lot which forced me into my tent to read. The other problem: being there during the week, the place was not as willing to serve me food. I got a great meal the first night, but was unsuccessful after that, as they decided to have work done on the kitchen. This forced me into walking the 1 km into town in search of some type of sustenance from the local tiendas. One night I ate a medium size bag of potato chips and 4 different types of sugary desserts.  Twice, I was lucky and a lady had some hot food on display, but that was over 3 days.

So, my rain filled days of starvation in Pance didn’t go as planned. I limped back down into the city of Cali and am now drying out. I expect to stay 2 nights here before continuing south to see some ruins. I will attempt to fix my footwear with some super glue and hope that they hold up for the duration of my trip.

A few speed bumps in the road, but those are expected. I am not on a typical vacation and tell myself that it is all about the experiences and the knowledge gained rather than a relaxing, stress free holiday. Comparto tu lluvia