Friday, 20 July 2012

Café & Candy

Finally I make it to the much praised city of Medellín!  I ride in the city with only an address of the hostel I'm planning on staying in, and little more.  The GPS map I have for Colombia was pretty much useless.  After riding around aimlessly for a short time among the cars and tiny 100-400cc motos, I actually see a larger bike.  A larger V-twin Yamaha and I decide to play follow the leader for awhile, and we have a little bit of fun as he tries (not sure exactly how hard) to lose me.  Finally I pull up beside him at a light and low and behold he speaks English and then offers to lead me to my hostel!!!  Things are looking up already.

The next day the bike goes into the dealer for an oil change, tires and maintenance and I'm left feeling naked.
The typical scene of a vendor making candy on the street.
There is no admittance fee and there is some interesting things to see inside.  There was an art display when we went in.  I also should mention how much I love the two-tone bricks of this building.  You'll see what I mean in the picture down below.

The sculptures of Fernando Botero in Medellin are truly something that should not be missed.

Here's one of my favourites.
Here's the top of the Palacio De la Cultura.  It has to been seen to be appreciated.

The tires are finally on and the bike is listo (ready).  I leave Medellín after almost a week and head towards Solento.

It's a great ride and I manage to completely by-pass Cali.  If you go this way and don't feel like a large city, I suggest you take the time and plan your route to give Cali a wide berth.  The dancing and partying in Cali are supposed to be great, but I don't do either so it made sense to skip it this time.

I checked into a Hostel called the Plantation house.  A few positive and negative points on this place.  The owner was a super nice kiwi guy and let me park my bike right beside his house, but it was up the road out of my sight.  The negative things were that the kitchen was disgusting.  The garbage was overflowing all over the floor and when we mentioned it to the staff he simply shrugged his shoulders.  The other thing was it WAS very rustic to the point where you would almost be better off in a tent.  Cheaper and less insects.

Anyway, the coffee tour with them was good and it almost made it worth the stay there.
At the beginning of the tour the owner talked about coffee and the different kinds of plants.

The machine they use to skin the beans.
The different stages of coffee, including the flowers.

Roasting the coffee.
The gigantic flower in on the bottom of the banana tree and upside down,
You have to ask for them, but they do have nets and there isn't many mosquitos.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Tena and back to Colombia

After some exciting and strenuous kayaking I decided that I better finally take care of myself.  I went for a massage, which are dirt cheap in Ecuador, and I decided I would also try the steam bath at the hostel.

What awesome fun in the steam bath!  You go in this box and get steamed 6 times and in between you smash yourself with a freezing cold wet towel.  It's hilarious and you feel great after.  I recommend you go with a bunch of friends and laugh your asses off.

It was kinda odd, but I left a little noxious after the waterfalls.  Not sure what the was about, but I did bump my head a bit on first drop.  Anyway, I thought the massage would help and it did a bit, but I still felt a bit off.  

It came time in my trip to do some serious thinking.  My original plan to make it to Argentina and back to Canada for August and that was simply not going to work.  It was with great hesitation and disappointment I decided to head back to towards Colombia.  Later that day I arrived in Tena, Ecuador which is also known for amazing kayaking.  I checked myself into a hostel and the next day I kayaked a grade 4+ river,  The Quijos with "The River People" and a guide named Tim.

On the way to the river that day I felt really noxious again.  Luckily, by the time we reached the put-in I felt better.  I decided if I felt that way again, I'd seek some medical aid.

What an amazing day on the river.  Huge rapids, One tense moment when one of the guide got caught side surfing an epic hole, but was patient and eventually surfed off.   Also scary when I got run over by the raft.  We were paddling down the river, one of the guides was leading with me behind with the raft and another safety kayaker trailing.  The lead guide pulled into a micro eddy and I didn't find any room to follow.  A minute later I went straight into a monster hole and had only time to say a VERY short prayer, before I was torpedoed to the bottom of the river.  I held my breath and waited patiently for the right time to roll, but that opportunity didn't present itself and I needed to breathe.  I managed to get my head up long enough for air, but that was all.  When I finally tried to roll the third time I was blind-sided hard and felt my spray-deck come off the cockpit of my kayak.  Time to swim.  When I popped my head out of the water, the raft that had just collided with my floundering boat and was right beside me and so was one of the safety kayakers and the clean up was easy.  My helmet was knocked clean off my head!

So, a great day on the river with a little scare at the end,  but all-in-all, an amazing day.  Pictures for sure next time!

Immigration and vehicle permits are pretty into Columbia.

The road just before Medellin.

Going up the tram car in Medellin with some British Travellers.
When I finally got to Medellin, I was still experiencing some nausea .  I decided it was time to get into the hospital for some tests.
They put the IV on me while I waited for the test results.
So, all the tests came back negative. They tested me for Dengay Fever, Malaria and a whole slew of other things and everything looked good.  A bit of a relief, but it didn't answer the question of why I was feeling like shit.
These aren't quite Oreo's but they still made me feel better after all the the blood tests and waiting.  Good medicine.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Ecuador...I know I'm gonna like this place : )

 The road from Popayan to San Agustín had been a doozy, but I had no idea what was in store for me the day I left Colombia.  I had a clue when the the policemen at a check point used the word "PELIGROSO".  That means dangerous for you fellow gringos and let me tell you...between the insane truck drivers, the cliffs with no guard rails, the crappy dirt road and the river crossings...THEY WERE RIGHT!  I had a blast, but at the end of the day I was exhausted.
I wished I could have enjoyed the scenery more,  but I was so totally focused on the road, the bike and the trucks;  I barely saw anything else.
Too top it all off,  a nice bit of fog rolled in.

Luckily some of the river crossings helped wash off the bike.

Somehow I made it all the way into Ecuador that day and rolled into Ibarra in the dark.  It was late, but a found a hostel easily and even got some chicken delivered.  It seemed like a nice place but I left without breakfast.

After getting a couple hours of riding in, I finally stopped at a little roadside cafe.
In part of South America they eat things we would consider odd for breakfast like soup, rice and chicken.
It's not our typical breakfast, but you sure get a lot of food for about $3.

Luckily I had the equator marked on my GPS or I would of missed it.  In fact I passed it the first time and had to ride back.

There actually is sign on the left side of the road.
They have build a sun dial and for a buck, a gentlemen will give you a small  talk about what he believes is the centre of the world.

The man at the Sun Dial.  Eventhough he talks really fast and doesn't seem too interested in his job, he has some interesting things to say.
South of Quito, I pass by an Army base and see some familiar insignia and decide to turn around and go back.

"Always Ready"....just like Paratroopers should be.

One of the Troops at the gate.

We trade a set of Canadian Jump wings for a set of Ecuadorian Wings.
I finally stop in a place called Baños de Agua Santa or Baños for short. It's a small but exciting town. Cheap places to stay, good restaurants, volcanos, tours, name is. I get a private room at a hostel with parking for my bike too:)
Looking out my window to the yard of the Hostel.

Baños is famous for river sport like rafting and kayaking and guess who loves kayaking.  It takes me a little searching, but I finally dial in to the best outfit, guides and kayakers in town. A place called Geotours.
The group getting ready for a class 3+ paddle.
A friendly french Canadian that loves kayaking too.

Break time and a little cliff jump for the gang.

A couple days later I hook up with Andres & Lucho again to run some water falls.
The boys and myself looking from the top of the last drop.
Andres getting ready for the first drop.
What it looks like from the bottom.

Lucho on the ledge.
Me taking a slightly bad line.

The film crew in the van on the way back.
Three falls and we all make it out alive and feeling awesome.  Thanks guys....what an amazing day.