Friday, November 28, 2014

Cotopaxi: Volcanoe Attempt Round 2

 Here is a shot after leaving the park.  Next to the beautiful sign from 1968 announcing the entrance to "National Park Cotopaxi".  Cotopaxi is not the tallest mountain in Ecuador but it is right up there.  Cheembarazza was the tallest but I was not able to even see it with the visibility.  This is the most famous volcanoe in Ecuador because of its proximity to Quito, the 3 million person city.

Before all this, I showed up to Cotopaxi from Banos.  I stayed at a hostel called the Secret Garden Cotopaxi for two nights.  There is also a Secret Garden in Quito as well.  The one in Quito is OK, but the one in Cotopaxi is outstanding.  Cotopaxi is a two hour trip from Quito.  75 cents on bus to the small town of Machachi and another 15 dollars to drive you to the Secret Garden Cotopaxi.  Once you are there it is one of the most beautiful hostels I have ever been to.  35 bucks a night for a room or if you have your own tent it is 20 dollars.  That might seem like a lot but that includes free breakfast, lunch, dinner, unlimited cake and a jacuzzi.  Not to mention you are in a national park close to endless mountain hikes, adventures and bicycling opportunities.  All the other haciendas in the area are around $100 dollars a night and do not include free food.

I showed up here with my friend John from Alaska.  Both of us wanted to summit the volcanoe.  We had one friend from New Jersey pay $350 to summit.  We were not willing to pay that.  We eventually bargained one guide down to $140 bucks a person, with jacket rentals, boots, crampons, ice axe and rope once we were at another hacienda called Tambopaxi. Unfortunately it was still too rich for our blood and we had to pass.  We moved to Tambopaxi which is really close to the volcanoe and camped there for seven dollars a night.
 Initially it was a failure because the weather is so bad you can never see the peark of the volcanoe.  Three days in Cotopaxi and I still hadn't the opportunity to lay my eyes on this beautiful beast.  The elevation here was 3,750 meters and the top of the volcanoe was nearly 6000.
 These plants found in Cotopaxi are the sister to "Indian Paintbrush" found in the Canadian Rockies.
Finally on the last day before leaving, I woke up in my tent to this view.  It got cold at night, about 5 degrees and a huge rainstorm.  But it was worth it to lay my eyes on this volcanoe.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Banos, Ecuador

Kinda a funny name for a town.  It means Bathroom.  But it is named after the hotsprings and not a giant toilet.  A big volcanoe nearby which I think one day will erupt.  On the way into town we saw volcanic activity and huge steam pillows nearby

 One of the most popular things to do is ride a bike from Banos downhill to nearby watefalls and towns.  I rented a good mountain bike with disk brakes and front suspension shocks for ten dollars.  Here is a video of the trip:

The waterfalls are pretty enormous!
Banos is a small town of only 15 thousand people but lots of people on my travels have been talking about it.  It is a place to come to do extreme sports: mountain biking, ATVing, Ziplining, Bunjee Jumping just to name a few.
My friend from Ingleterra (England) named Fin.
Beautiful shot of the waterfalls.
Here the people eat guinea pig.  Thank god I have decided to be a vegetariano otherwise I might have actually eated this disgusting meal.
Hanging with my friend Fin from England and my other friend Michael from Holland. Beautiful bridge in the background that people bunjee jump off of.  Did a day hike in the mountains in the background and had a great time.  Everywhere you go in the Center Strip of Ecuador has beautiful mountain landscapes like this.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Even Taller Than Everest

Today I woke up early in Ecuador with the intention of climbing Mount Chimbarazo.  It is the tallest mountain in Ecuador and technically the tallest mountain the world if you base it on distance from the center of the earth and not distance above sea level.  Ken Jennings explains it better than I do.

I made it to the town of Riobamba and slept the night at the Oasis Hostel, 15 dollars a night which is pricey for Ecuadorian standards, but in small towns you do not really have a choice.  I woke up early to beautiful sunset and caught the ten oclock bus to a town nearby that would drop me off at the mountains entrance.  When I got to the mountain entrance I was able to hitchike a ride with some Colombians another 8km up the mountain.

You can drive up 8km, anmd at this point there was space to camp, and a kitchen as well as bathrooms that were free.  If you want to make an attempt of Chimbarazo I recommend going in January when the weather is a little better.  A lot of Spring Showers now. 
 The peak of Riobamba, with clouds in front.

 A fox coming close to us.
The fox can smell the jamon y queso sandwhiches in my bag.  

Even with the gear to camp on the mountain, i decided to return so I could make it to the next destination tomorow, rather than get stuck up another day on the mountain.  I made the right call because later in the afternoon there was a huge thunder and lightning storm.  There will be other volcanoes to be had in South America.  Unfortunately I will not be able to climb the peak that dwarfs Everest.  There was only another 1.2km of elevation to be climbed.  That means at the point I was at, I was 500m away from being equal to Everest.  Very close.  The altitute definitely put pressure on my head.  I am going to have to acclimitize better before the next volcano.
Back in the town of Riobamba.  Will spend the night here and then take a bus to Banos.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Cali, Colombia... The last stop in Colombia

 This was my last night in Medellin.  Was there for two weeks.  I had a blast.  I wish I could live there someday.  The people are nice, but not too nice.  Just the right level of nice.  These guys were really nice though.  Celebrating my last night with me in Medellin.  Loro on the left from Spain and the middle guy from Mexico City.  Practiced a lot of Spanish with them.
 On the bus on the way to Cali from Medellin, in the beautiful coffee region and jungle.  I know a lot of people that spent time in Armenia, Manizalez and Salento.  Unfortunately I had to miss these towns after spending two weeks in Medellin.  Definitely worth a visit though if you have the time.

On the way to Cali, Colombia.  Ranked the sixth most dangerous city in the world because of murder rate.    Everyone in the other cities of Colombia, Bogota and Medellin warned me about Cali.  Many said, "Dont go to Cali."  What Cali is most famous for, besides being dangerous is Salsa Music.  Unfortunately I do not like Salsa I have discovered after a month here and five lessons.  So I had to explore other areas of the city.
 Here on Saturday we have city street teams out cleaning the graffiti on a street, so that more artists can come and do different graffiti. Lots of good street art here.  On the right the police officer is using the spray paint can.  The police in Cali seemed nice but some of the locals warned me that they are very unfair and mean.
 Here is the Parque Estudiantes in San Antonio.   Colombia is so much about park culture.  It was my favorite thing about Colombia.  The nightlife really sucked actually but the park life was out of this world.  On a friday or saturday night you can spend the night barhopping and listening to shitty salsa music paying too much for drinks.  Or you can buy a box of aguardiente or rum, get a few plastic shot glasses and go to the park with your friends to drink and meet others.  It is definitely the most Colombian thing you can do.
 Here in the park for students they have street art demonstrations.
 Beauitful statue, people making street art and wonderful reggae music and hip hop. 
 Cali is definitely most known for salsa music.  There were so many people at my hostel here to learn to dance salsa and go out to salsa clubs.  If that is your thing Cali is a must see.  If that is not your thing Cali is still a must see.  This park party had reggae, hip hop and ska punk.  The emcee kept reiterating that Cali is not just about Salsa but other musics too.  It is a stereotype that the culture pushers of the city are really trying to challenge.  When the ska punk went on there was a huge mosh pit and someone got knocked out and had to be taken away on a stretcher.  Very exciting!!!

Cali is a safe city.  I promised myself that I would not walk around alone at night on the streets and I broke that rule within the first five minutes.  Best thing I ever did.  Discovered a delicious Argentinian Asado restaurant where I had delicious vegetarian pizza.
Made some friends from Australia.  Canadians definitely have their beef with Australians a little bit.  Especially people in Banff that have seen their town over run by Australians.  But I have found some amazing Australian friends down here.  Left is Scotty and right is Jock.  Me and Jock travelled together down to Quito together.  Australia sounds like it has lots of hippy beach towns, you can make good money cause the minimum wage is eighteen dollars an hour.  The only downside is things are very expensive.  I definitely want to go to Australia to work some day.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

The City of Great Innovation

Medellin built a waterfall,in a park in what is still considered to be a fairly dangerous part of town.  But the investment in public infrastructure creates meaningul community spaces, rather than areas congested with drug trafficking.  Kids playing and running through the waterfall.

Beautiful graffiti art along this leg of the Electric Staircase transit line of Medellin, with my friend Diana from Pänama.
There are five of these electric staircases through the Barrio of San Javier.  It is up on the mountainside so a very difficult place to communte.  But it was made much easier with the cites investment in electric staircases.  Two of the five electric staircase stations are equipped with community centers for the public to use for community related events.  When we were there a large group of kids were learning Hip Hop Dance.  The cities investment in these type of projects adds so much culture and meaning to the citizens that live in these low income barrios.
The beautiful Metro Transit System of Medellin.  1 dollar to ride it anywhere in the city for as long as you want until you leave the station.  There are four separate lines that you can transfer between and two gondolas.  This is not even  including the bus systems.  For a city of three million people you need a good transit system.  Bogota was 13 million and they only had busses.  It was very congested commuter traffic.  Here they even have special lanes, overpasses and tunnels exclusively for busses that allow busses to travel very quickly even when there is bad traffic.
Some beautiful graffiti art along the transit line in Medellin.  If you want to see more of the beautiful graffiti art I have seen in South America so far check out my instagram

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Mean Streets of Medellin

 This is a gondola shot of one of the neighborhoods in Medellin.  For the average Medellin person the income is about $300 a month I am told.  That is not a lot considering it is a relatively expensive city for South American standards.  Lots of beautiful neighborhoods looking like this,
 A look down at the city from the top of the Mountain Gondola.  3 Million residents in this city and you can see the vast expanse.
 Had my beard shaved off finally,  I asked the guy at the empanada stand if he knew of a barber nearby.  Turns out he wanted to cut my beard for me for free.  It was Colombian National Day so the spirits were high in the streets and the empanadas were extra delicious.
 A square up the mountainside of Medellin during the Colombian National Day Festivities.  Man rides his Motorbike with a small baby on the front.  People on motorbikes constantly driving into the crowds of people but it didnt seem to disturb the flow of the people very much.

 Shot of another neighborhood up the mountainsides.  These are the best places to go to find the best food at the best prices.
Park in Medellin Suburb with a giant halfpipe.   Now that is how you spice up a park!

Halloween in Medellin

New friends at the hostel.  From Left to right Jay (Finland), Diana (Montreal, Regina (Vancouver) and Steve (De Londres).
Big Botero sculptures in the center of Medellin.  This is Botero's hometown so he is bound to have a lot.

Another shot of Central Bogota.  Lots of amazing art, streets and museums.

Taking the gondola up the mountainside is actually a form of transportation that connects many Medellin citizens to the rest of the city.  How cool is it that you can ride a gondola to work.  Most of the neighborhoods around the gondola are middle to low class because they are the ones that typically live up the mountainsides.
Halloween with this rowdy group of individuals in a park in downtown Medellin.

Wearing pumpkin costumes.  Without the pumpkin I am supposed to be a lumberjack.

Shot from the mountaintop. Such beatiful red buildings everywhere.  All in all I like Medellin the best out of any of the cities in Colombia.  It is so modern with an amazing transport system.  It is not too touristy but it is still an amazing Colombian City.  The weather is 17 degrees all year long.  It does not get too hot or too cold.  It does rain a bit.  This place is paradise.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Capurgana, Colombia to Panama !!!

Beach of Capurgana with an untouched Island.  There was many moments that me and my Argentinian friend contemplated swimming to this island but we never made it.

 Fish Market in Capurgana.  Fisherman bring their fish to the market everyday and then the vendors sell them to us.  Very Cheap and delioucous.
Waiting at the fish market with my friend Jay (left) from Finland and my friend Steve from England.  travelled to Medellin with these guys after we left Capurgana.

Woke up early one day with my Argentinian friend and we decided to walk to Panama.  It was only a two hour walk and it was nice to be back in North America, the only continent I had known until September when I arrived in Buenos Aires.  This is the view of Sapzurro, a small town still in Colombia on the way to Panama.

 Deep Jungle on the walk there but we only saw one snake and it was dead and no monkeys.
 Finally made it to Panama.  They wouldnt stamp my passport but I did have to talk to military personell.  After this
 Here I am with my Argentinian friend as we ride the boat back to Colombia.  Walking there took  a lot out of us.  Argentinians are the funniest people.  So serious and direct in the way they talk and very loud too.  They talk a lot but they have lots of funny jokes and sayings that usually translate into English quite well.  I cant wait to go back to ARgentina in a few months.
 Up close shot of this beautiful Caribbean Island near Capurgana.
 Nacho with his favorite island in the background.  One day he will make it there.
 Drinking Club Colombias with my Homeboy Steve from England.  this guy has been to four continents so far on this travel and he is heading to Australia next.  In cambodia he was in a bad motorcycle accident at night with no helmet and nearly died.  I am glad he is with me on on this trip.
 Night bike shot on the peer in  Capurgana.
Waiting for the boat to take us away from this beautiful Island Paradise.  Steve is not one bit happy about this.  In the background the town is being stocked up with new supplies.  the only available way to transport goods here is by boat from Turbo.