Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Tierradentro’

Under the Milky Way

Monday, June 7th, 2010

The past week has gone by fairly quickly. A couple hours off the well worn path down to Ecuador, I met some very cool travelers and have been reenergized by conversation, cerveza, and fresh air. Here is a recap:

Arriving in Tierradentro after a 5 hour bumpy bus ride, the 3 other gringos and I were shown reasonably priced accommodations and formed a group. Consisting of a guy from North Carolina (traveling south for the past year, with some work mixed in, I envied his beard, long hair, and Spanish), his female Canadian travel companion (they met in Central America and reunited in Colombia, she also has done volunteer work and speaks Spanish), and a young man from London (teaches English in Ecuador and has had a sitdown with the Dalai Lama). As you can see, a group I was able to learn a lot from.

The only tourists for miles, we were fortunate to have a friendly shop owner across the street, little rain, and cheap meals. The area is known for the elaborate tombs lining the tops of the hills. A full day was spent doing the loop hike up and around the ridgeline, taking in some stunning vistas and climbing down into holes in the ground. Most of the 100+ sites have been raided, but there are a few in excellent shape and illuminated by lights.

tombs along the ridge

tombs along the ridge

art in tomb

accidental flash photo

That night, another 4 random tourists rolled into town, we played a card game very similiar to my family reunion ¨Heck¨, which the Canadian called “Dutch Blitz”, and socialized. Two of the randoms were females from England who just happened to be heading back to the city of Neiva, in my direction, a day after me. One of them just finished a year of teaching there and had an apartment which I could crash at. I decided this was too good an opportunity, so I stuck around another day and acted as an uninformed tour guide while doing the loop again. The other 2 in the group: a cool German guy and a French girl, who spoke some English and picked random berries and fruits for us to try along the way.

The next day, the 2 British girls and I made our way to Neiva where I got to sample some local food and a local bar. I was grateful for the free accommodations, tea, Lucky Charms cereal, and new Facebook friends.

Friday morning, I headed out to “Desierto de la Tatacoa”, about an hour north of town. Fully prepared to hike the last 8 km in midday heat to the observatory, a moto-taxi driver was desperate and went down to ($5) from his initial ($10) bid. Only really worth it for the laughs that he got from his fellow drivers for going that low. At the observatory, my accommodations were in a hammock strung up between the pillars on the front porch.  No privacy, constant tour groups rolling through, and they locked me out at 10 pm; the only good parts about the place were the price and the view.

The first night, an Aussie tourist came out from town just for the astronomy presentation done on the roof. I joined him in paying a few bucks to see a guy point at things in the sky with a green lazer and to look through the telescope, mostly for the socializing. He was from Melbourne, we have played the same golf course there (Yarra Bend), and shared a love for the ¨Great Ocean Road¨ coastline. The best part about the show was the photo of Saturn the astronomer was able to capture with my camera through the scope.

Saturn, it´s a planet out there is space.

Saturn, it's a planet out there is space.

The next day, I hiked around the desert in the stunning “Cuzco Labrinths” as my body weakend from the draining heat and lack of sleep.
a good place to frolic

a good place to frolic

I gained more confidence around livestock but am now afraid of birds dive bombing me. Then, splurged on some goats milk dessert and a dip in a nearby pool before taking in the night sky show. I really enjoyed flexing some photographic muscle, aided by my tripod and a lengthened shutter.
¨That big dipper looking thing is Alan, the Cowboy.¨

¨That big dipper looking thing is Alan... the Cowboy.¨

Milky Way, I think

Milky Way, I think

Sunday, I successfully hitched a ride back to civilization, after walking 2 of the 8k.  Boarded a couple of bus/truck type vehicles and am now in San Agustin, home to some statues and scenery. Another couple of chilly nights in a hammock await, but this time my room is shared with a ping-pong table. I heard stories of competetive games the night before my arrival, but will have to size up the next crop of tourists and hope for some pongers.
The past week was a good mix of socializing and solo travel. Although I greatly enjoyed all of the people I met and their fluency in the local tounge, I felt a renewed eagerness to get back on my own. On the ride out to the desert, I loved being the bearded white guy on the back of a truck, surrounded by bags of Sulfato de Amonio, getting curious looks from locals. I missed stumbling over words and pointing at things. The plan now: satisfy my need for social interaction after a few days of lonesome wandering. Plus, I am considering taking some Spanish classes while in Ecuador and will look for volunteer work there as well, aided by a timely comment on my last post by H4.  Le lleva aquí a pesar de su destino
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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

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