i heart baños

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I honestly don’t remember why I decided to go from Quito to Baños de Agua Santa; I think it was just because it seemed like a vaguely interesting place to break up the long trip to Cuenca. Plus probably the eponymous thermal baths for my sick ass.

Acquiring this adorable shirt for my very very soon to be nephew(!) was worth it in and of itself, but it was actually a really neat place. Hella touristy, but like, (a) I am a tourist, and (b) I grew up in Daytona Beach.

And I went to the Casa de Arbol / Swing at the End of the World. Not to be confused with the Train at the End of the World, which I also went to in Tierra del Fuego, but that’s neither here nor there.

Photodump inc:

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(Man, do I wish I had figured out what Dino Park  actually entailed.)

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So, the fucking funniest thing about the Casa de Arbol visit was that everybody got off the public bus, and the first few people saw these ropes going up the hill to the entrance and so just started climbing up, and literally like 75% of the bus just kind of shrugged and were like I guess this is how you get there:

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So we got to the top, mostly at least partially mud-caked and out of breath, especially me, when someone, like … glanced slightly to the left and saw, y’know, the normal person path to walk up. Good job, team of strangers.

The second funniest thing about the Casa de Arbol is like when I was looking up info about it beforehand, how many people bitched and moaned about the cost of it. The entrance fee was … $1 USD. The bus was $2 round trip. C’mon.

Unfortunately it was very misty so I could not see Tungurahua, but even in the mist it was a pretty spine-tingly view. And because of the weather, there was basically only the one busload of people there, so instead of the hour-long wait for thirty seconds on the swing, we could all pretty much just go indefinitely.

My fear of heights raised some objections, but it was really cool. 🙂

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(I realize that’s like fifteen nearly identical pictures in a row, but hey, it was neat.)

And the place itself was also cool, with some really pretty gardens, a random ziplines, and a restaurant in which I did not eat.

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And, of course, a doggo.

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Aaaand then me figuring out how to walk into a pharmacy and be like “uhhhh estoy enfermidad, uh, tu vendes … [gesturing vaguely at face] … masks?” prior to the 6-odd hour bus ride to Cuenca so at least people might be slightly sympathetic when I accidentally coughed at them.

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Goooood times.

 

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cat(s) in quito

Okay, well, considering it is now fall and I’ve been back in the US for almost two months — and holy shit, how have I not updated (except Machu Picchu) since Colombia?! — perhaps it’s time to try to catch up.

You know, before I lose all the photos on my phone after inevitably losing my phone again, having left it in a taxi cab in Puno, Peru and again in a parking lot of the mall here in Florida, and astonishingly getting it back within hours both times because people honestly are so good. Often. But I’m pressing my luck.

So yeah, I ended up wandering through Ecuador (Quito, Banos, Cuenca), Peru (Trujillo/Chan Chan ruins, Cusco/Machu Picchu, Puno/Lake Titicaca, Arequipa), Chile (Iquique, Santiago, Punta Arenas), Argentina (Ushuaia/Tierra del Fuego, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Mendoza), and Uruguay (Colonia/Montevideo).

I miss the Andes so much.

And, of course, I was sick literally from the day I got there until I left — at first just altitude sickness, since I’m apparently one of those super lucky souls to be very, very sensitive to it (thanks, sea level childhood), and then also my route was constantly like 9,000 feet, then 3,000, then 13,000, then 200, then 10,000 etc etc, so I never really got acclimated.

And then the combination of just being generally sick, and exhausted, and around millions of different hostel/bus/train/plane germs, landed me with a delightful case of acute bronchitis, so I guess I can check “get chest xrays in a hospital in Santiago” off my bucket list.

And then of course as soon as I was semi-recovered from that, I got my first and only stomach flu of all my travels. Which, honestly, as far as stomach flus go, could have been worse; it was over and done within twelve hours, and was only throwing up, but also I did throw up I think thirteen times in those twelve hours and have probably never been that dehydrated in my life.

Anyway, point being, I spent way more time Not Doing Stuff than I’d’ve liked, because, you know, that whole breathing thing. And Quito was particularly bad, because it was rough enough in Bogota, then went to Medellin and got better, and then went 1,000+ feet higher than Bogota. Whee.

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I stayed at the Masaya Hostel, since I really liked the one in Bogota, and the one in Quito is way nicer. Very new, huge, big comfortable beds (with curtains/screens!), lots of green space, decent restaurant, for like… $12 a night or so.

Also, of course, a cat. I don’t remember her name, but I love her.

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Also met up briefly in Quito with the French guy I met in Bogota, because obviously, and who recommended the Chan Chan ruins in Peru, which was one of my favorite places.

Quito was a really cool city, though. I found a pizza place near the hostel (Bohemia Pizza, actually quite delicious), and it didn’t have WiFi and I didn’t have my kindle or anything, so I drew a bit of it. And I am very much not a skilled artist, but I kinda liked it.

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And the owner (who was the only one there at the time) noticed and asked me what I was doing, so we chatted for a good twenty minutes, in my broken Spanish, and I gave her the drawing and she seemed delighted and said she’d hang it up, so who knows, maybe I have a drawing hanging up in a random pizza joint in Ecuador.

So yeah, Quito is very cool, and I really want to go back one day when I’m not dying and explore a whole lot more.

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Next up: Banos, Ecuador, and the swing at the end of the world.

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Machu Picchu!

Skipping over (for now) Quito, Banos, Cuenca, Trujillo & Chan Chan, and Lima — I’m in Cusco and I went to Machu Picchu yesterday!

Alone on like two hours of sleep, in the rain, on swollen ankles and borked knees and back, and it was definitely worth it. Spectacularly.

I arrived in Lima with train tickets for Sunday, but still no actual ticket to Machu Picchu, due to the legendarily headachey website. There were still plenty of tickets available, but really did not want the additional what-if of, you know, what if, so I spent the extra $10 USD or so to book through the hostel travel agent. Unnecessary, but halfway worth it, at least.

So my day started about 4am, since the morning train for Poroy near Cusco leaves just after 6, and the train station is outside of town. I was grateful that the Uber driver did not try to engage me in pre-dawn Spanish practice and I dozed the twenty minutes to the station. Naturally, as soon as I was there, I ran into my two roommates from Brazil in Lima, with whom I had exchanged numbers and fully intended to get a drink with, and then didn’t. They were taking Inca Rail, though, and I took Peru Rail (effectively the same, as far as I can tell), so we just kinda waved and groggily asked if everyone was still alive and moved on.

Being freezing fucking cold, the train station had a number of heat lamps inside, which I thought was quite classy. My mom would approve.

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Ended up sitting next to a sort of extended American family, which as an American I will say is hit or miss, but they were very pleasant, and I talked all the way with my seatmate, commiserating about idiotic injuries and ogling the incredible views. (She was, of course, from Florida as well.)

They say the train between Cusco/Ollantayambo to Aguas Calientes is almost as amazing as the ruins themselves, and like, they ain’t lying.

Before I start with the huge photodump, oh my god, this is not a short day; I wish I’d stayed the night in Ollantaytambo. 5am Uber ride, 3.5 hour train, 20 minute terrifying bus ride; 5 miles hiking around he ruins; 20 minute bus ride, 1.5 hour train ride; wandering aimlessly out the train station hoping there was in fact still a collectivo to Cusco — which there was, exactly one, with exactly one seat. But it worked as intended, and got back my hostel after a very short but very very cold walk from the collectivo to my hostel.

(My photos are, as usual while still on Chromebook, unedited and disorganized; apologies.)

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So we got to Aguas Calientes, which is a pretty town, though pure tourist. Growing up in Daytona Beach, I’m like, oh, yeah, AU hometown. But I befriended a cat. (With assistance of leftover empanada.)

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ANYWAY and then I got the (irritatingly expensive) bus up the hairpin curves to the temple itself. The driver was very safe, but I am coming to terms with my fear of heights, and staring out at level distance to Andean peaks and then looking down at the bus tires like inches away… . .

But we did not fall off the edge.

I didn’t get the Machu Picchu passport stamp; I’m not sure if it’s even still a thing, since all info is from who the hell knows. I’ll live. And I started climbing up the like Actual Hike, got about fifteen minutes up — and it was difficult, due to the fact that I can’t fucking breathe, but could have done it slowly — but could not go down, due to knees about to pop out every step. So I crept back down and went down to the feeble-person-circuit, which is still mostly all of the temple, just not the cool views. I was afraid I wasn’t going to be able to do it at all until I realized there was an easier path, so I’m cool with it.

Also lots of alpacas.

 

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Zona de Trabajo, indeed.

And now to collect the laundry that probably have should been burned after Machu Picchu, along with my skin, coated in sweat and rain and sunscreen and bug spray, and head to Puno tomorrow morning, to see Lake Titicaca, because:

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No shame.

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BIG UNTITLED UNEDITED MEDELLIN PHOTODUMP, MOVING ON

So I admittedly spent most of my time in Medellin lounging around the hostel — and working a lot, to be fair to myself — and trying not to cough directly in anyone’s face. And taking a shit-ton of pictures of the fog that looks so gentle on the Andean peaks, because it’s just so intensely foreign to this bitterly Floridian girl.

But it was a pretty fucking cool view.

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And I did manage to drag my plague ass out a couple of times.

The coolest by far, though, was the Medellin Metrocable, which aside from having a fascinating history and a rare example of a city actually building major infrastructure to help its most poverty-stricken areas is also a completely unreal view. Even when it grinds to a halt, swinging precariously over the Andes Mountains and you make eye contact with the other people in the car for the first time and just kinda shrug.

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And also the Parque Pasaje Paisa —

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— which was really neat, despite the unimpressive pictures, as I was busy falling down the fucking hill, to no one’s surprise, ever.

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And Plaza del Botero —

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— until Medellin erupted into its delightful (seriously) afternoon storms, and finally to the Jardin Botanico. I’m bummed I did not see the huge-ass iguanas, but it was still very cool.

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SO THERE, that’s Colombia.

Since then, I spent four days and change in Quito, and am now in Banos de Agua Santa, hoping the volcano-baths will maybe coax whatever is still stubbornly lurking in my lungs the fuck out. Tuesday I go to Cuenca — then Mancora (I think), then Trujillo, then Lima. Then fly to Cuzco(!) and Machu Picchu(!!), then [vague mumblings] Santiago, down Chilean Patagonia to Ushuaia, up Argentinian Patagonia to Bariloche, and I think another three weeks or so to wander the rest of Argentina and a bit of Uruguay and then fly back to the US.

And then figure out how to do it all again.

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Bogota // Botero Museum photodump

STILL SICK, still suck at updating. anyway here’s this photodump, then perhaps I can finish catching up on Medellin, and then I’ll only be one city behind…

This is a really cool museum, though, especially for free. Like most people, it seems, I had no idea there was such an incredible collection here, totally for free.

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malady in medellin

So I made it to Medellin! — which everyone here I’ve asked (which is everyone I’ve spoken to) confirms is in fact pronounced meh-deh-JEEN not meh-deh-YEEN (I’ve forgotten too much of the IPA to transliterate it accurately). Huh.

Flying over the Andes is a fucking trip, y’all. I got to Bogota at like 2am, so I never saw anything but clouds and then sudden city lights. The flight to Medellin was only about half an hour (so naturally this was the one flight that I was like the only person on the plane with spare seats in my aisle — but since I’m sick, I’ll take it), so it barely even went above the clouds, but, like… wow.

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Raises the hair on my sea-level arms.

I decided to brave the bus at least partway down from Jose Maria Cordova Airport, because a taxi/Uber would have been like 20-30 USD, whereas an airport shuttle + Uber was like 9 USD. Not a huge difference, but it ended up super easy, so like, why not? And amazing glimpses from up in the mountains down into the city valley, during the not-very-but-a-tiny-bit-terrifying ride winding down through.

The hostel I booked is absolutely beautiful — it’s raining, of course, and there’s a fountain inside the hostel, so the combined water-sounds is hauntingly lovely.

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But unfortunately the WiFi does not work in the tiny closet of a private room I got — which kind of defeats the purpose of holing up and hibernating for a few days as I try to kick the death-cough. So I’m still getting side-eyed in the common area, but at least later I’ll be coughing at them through a thin wall, instead of like… the same bunk bed.

But they were very accommodating, and tried to fix it, and when they couldn’t they refunded me the next three nights I’d booked without any unpleasantness, so I’d totally stay here again once I can like stay in a dorm without feeling like Typhoid Mary over here.

And Medellin, the little I’ve seen of it, is so gorgeous. Being from Florida, I’m used to green things, almost offensively lush, so it’s almost familiar, but the backdrop is so, so different.

It also feels hot as balls even though it is only like 70F/21C so I’m not sure what that’s all about.

I also think I tentatively have my route onwards from Quito sketched out! Flying Bogota to Quito purely to skip the potential border hassle, then bus trips from Quito to Banos, Banos to Cuenca, Cuenca to Mancora Peru, Mancora to Trujillo, Trujillo to Lima. So that will be a thing.

Anyway, still not dead or kidnapped in Colombia.

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bogota // back to vagabond life

So after ten days in Bogota, I still haven’t gotten used to the altitude, and the dry cough and shortness of breath has officially devolved to a full-blown chest cold. Sorry, dormmates. I tried to be responsible, and moved to a single room for a few days to avoid inflicting the cough on others, and thought it was getting better, and then boom, hard nope.

Bogota is beautiful, however, and having spent basically my entire life in some form of flat sea-level terrain, I am still far from being over seeing the god damned Andes mountains looming up in all directions, especially when there’s fog drifting over the tops.

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Mostly I have been staying at the Masaya Hostel in La Candelaria, which I really like, especially because of its multiple chill, plant-filled common areas.

 

And even made some friends! I have been more social in the last week than I have been in five months in Florida, despite the rattling death-plague in my chest.

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The only downside to this hostel is that, unlike another hostel I bounced off to for a couple days just to explore, it does not have a huge, indescribably floofy, sweet, cuddly delight of a German Shepherd guarding its perimeter. I apologize for the photo spam, but she’s really important. To quote Rosa Diaz, if anything happened to her, I’d kill everyone in this room and then myself.

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SO. MUCH. FLOOF.

I did make it to the Museo Botero, which was super fucking cool, and also totally free, and like two blocks from the hostel, but I’ll save that photodump for another day.

Wednesday I fly to Medellin, for… I dunno, somewhere between a week or two, probably, before I head to Ecuador on May 21; I am very much hoping that some time in a slightly warmer place and more importantly a far lower altitude will help this chest cold fuck right off.

Before, you know, I go to Quito. Which is like a thousand feet higher than Bogota. So that’ll be interesting.

Also:

Big Ass Ants.

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