Archive for the 'Ecuador' Category

11
Feb
09

Medellin – the Long and Shart of it… ah Forget it, Just the Shart

MedellinWell, what can I say about Medellin really?  Life was good, life was fabulous.  The truth is that I don’t really know what normal life is really like – there were the rebellious teenage years when all energy was devoted towards battling my parents, then there were the hazy drug-urchin days where it was all about finding the next high, and then there was crazed academic obsession coupled with workaholic tendencies – from six in the morning till midnight every day.  Oh, and of course, that somehow transitioned into a mad bicycle pilgrimage down through the Americas and back to the “fatherland”.  So yeah, I don’t think I really knew what a normal life felt like until I got to Medellin.

Alright, so given, perhaps being unemployed for a few months in an urban South American garden of Eden isn’t really reality, but hey, its not for lack of trying!  I’ll be honest with you, I spent almost every day out on the hunt – following employment leads, networking, extending visas, and desperately struggling with national work permit laws.  Yeah, you could actually say that trying to get hired in Colombia was like my full time job… ok, a little pathetic… but true.

Well anyway, I was living on the cheap – I had an apartment for $280 with meals included, laundry service (you mean I get to just throw it on the floor and it comes back clean…??), daily room cleaning, a pool and penthouse views.  I couldn’t really complain, thats for sure.  Add to that a kick-ass burger joint with the tops in cheapy burgers only a block away (and open 24/7!), a quick walk to the metro train station, and stumbling distance to some of the best watering holes in the city (which is important for me, since I like to do a bit of pre-gaming to stick within my budget… and then stumble to the bars.  Is that wierd?).

Nevado del RuizSo yeah, life was good.  Add to that my little friend Elkin, and the practical in-separation of the two of us for almost the entire of my stay in Medellin, and yeah, I kept pretty busy.  We had a lot of country to visit together as well, and although I didn’t know it at the time, not much time in which to do it (couldn’t have predicted the dry job market and consequent short stay).  So, over those sweet few months in Medellin, somehow we managed to climb the snowy Nevado del Ruiz, lounge around in the delicious coffee growing region of Eje Cafetero, collapse in exhaustion from excessive salsa in Cali, fiesta in Cartagena in honor of the national beauty queen, chill out in Santa Marta like Colombian tourists (ok, given, one of us was), and ruin ourselves while hiking through the jungle and back in Parque Tayrona on the Caribbean coast.

Hmm, so why exactly did I leave?  Oh thats right, I was still unemployed – after three months, had only distant prospects – my oil field was drying up, and my visa was about to expire (again).  So, after two previous visa extensions (yeah, its a really short stay in Colombia) and no dice, I wasn’t willing to shell out the extra cash and fill out the dreary paperwork to keep myself in the country and harboring false hopes for any longer.  It was time to go.

After all of the time, energy, and funds that I had invested into starting my new life in Medellin (temporarily, of course), it was a shame to go, but I knew that it was now or never if I still wanted to have even a prayed of paying my way back to Brazil.  I said goodbye to my wonderful new friends in Medellin – sweet little Elkin, crazy little Mary, and quirky little Kristen –  ok, I suppose thats a bit redundant, but when you’re as big as me, that’s generally how you see the world.  And then there was Marisol and Sonia as well – goodbye my sweets!

Colombian Coastal WipeoutIt was hard to pick up and go, even harder since I had pigeon-holed myself into virtually having to flee the country by bus just in order to escape before the expiration of my visa, but as the day of my departure grew nearer I found myself renewed, rejuvenated, and re-invigorated for the journey ahead.

I would miss Medellin and the wonderful people with whom I had shared my life – but it was time for family – and time to continue onward to the destination of which I had dreamed of my whole life – Brazil.  And so, as with most difficult decisions in life, I said goodbye to the wonderful things that I had managed to fill my life with while living happily in Medellin, and pushed forward to the divine light of the future, and hopefully the fulfillment of which I had eternally longed for.

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07
Feb
09

CE: The Melting World of Piura

Southern EcuadorIts almost painful to walk the streets here during the day.  Perhaps thats why, as the hot afternoon sun beats down upon the city, only one sidewalk on either edge of the streets is ever populated with pedestrians, and even then the city appears almost desolate.  The meager daytime population melts lazily beneath that shady side of the street on only their most necessary of errands while the sun blisters everything else that it touches.  However, its not an unpleasant place, with its tree-lined boulevards and verdant squares, its just a sultry place.  And when the evening winds begin to sweep through the urban landscape and breath life back into its barren streets, the city comes back to life.

That was how it happened that as I walked here to the cafe at sunset this evening, the streets were miraculously teeming with life as if some secret quarantine had been lifted from the world.  So yes, basically what I’m trying to tell you is that this place is hot.  REALLY hot.  And although the daytime hours do indeed create quite a predicament as to accomplishing or seeing anything (since, of course, nothing in Latin America has air conditioning), it does make the luxuriantly cool mornings and ravishingly refreshing evenings that much more intoxicating.

Alright, so enough about the city, I guess you came here to find out what’s going on with me.  About a week ago I finally set off from Loja, in the South of Ecuador, with the intention of not stopping until I had reached the Peruvian border (and perhaps even a little further).  It was truly a torturous journey, turning from what many people had told me was “all downhill to the coastal deserts of Peru,” into endless green tropical mountains rising and falling (…and rising and falling… and rising and falling) inifinitely on the horizon – and of course, forcing me to cycle up and down each and every last one.

Downhill?However, it was also a magnificently picturesque and serene world, a land where the hand of modernization and globalization were truly completely devoid and there was only me and a narrow strip of road through the magnificent Andes for as far as the eye could see.

Well, the mountains didn’t last forever and, eventually, after one night camping in the thickest and most visually impenetrable blanket of fog which I’ve encountered in my entire journey (actually, I was sure that I was going to die for about an hour there, as I looked for a campsite anywhere before getting hit by one of the infrequent trucks that would appear out of the gloom only twenty feet behind me), and one night of camping in the humid lowlands between the mountains of Southern Ecuador (and gloriously bathing naked in the rushing brown rapids of a huge mountain river – to get fifty layers of sweat and sunscreen off my body before sleeping), I finally descended abruptly to the steamy border town of Macará.

I spent one night amidst the rice paddies of Macará, catching my breath, and the next morning set off for the nearby border crossing to Peru.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t remembered to try to smuggle anything across, as I certainly wouldn’t have been met with any suspicion or resistance whatsoever (then again, what the hell would you bother smuggling from Ecuador to Peru?), and within about fifteen minutes I had crossed the bridge into the new world (only took me that long because the Peruvian border official was so chatty).

After that it was truly smooth sailing.  Oh sweet Jesus, I can’t tell you how long I had yearned for that moment.  It was like I literally crossed the border and instantly the entire landscape changed.  No more craggy Andean peaks, no more endless mountain ridges along the horizon, just smoothly rolling provincial highway meandering through the countryside.  I just can’t explain to you, it changes everything.

Rice PaddiesLike a spark igniting a fire my speed came right back to me, after all of those months of doubting.  In only a short few hours I had reached Las Lomas, a small village with sand streets nestled into the rolling green hills around it – and which seemed to have forgotten that the world around it existed.  I had a blissful afternoon of deliciously cheap meals (I payed for soup, a full platter, and an icy cold panela with just one coin!), jubilantly flowing writing, and a couple of cold beers there among friendly people before settling in for the evening.

The following morning I set off bright and early, literally racing forward at a speed which I hadn’t accumulated since way back before arriving in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico (literally the beginning of the end).  It was a phenomenal day, filled with gorgeous spring-green scenery and friendly smiling faces.  Eventually, however, I did begin to draw nearer to Sullana, my original destination for the day, and the landscape soon began to transform into arid semi-desert scrubland.

Well, Sullana ended up looking like a real dump while I was passing it (literally trash and scary looking people all over the sides of the road), so I decided to skip that one and continue onwards to Piura, another forty or so kilometers South.  After Sullana the road began to look more and more like desert until I was finally arriving on the outskirts of Piura, and although I was parched and (of course) sunburnt by this point, I knew that I had made the right decision.

So here I am, in Piura – and yeah, its a little toasty – but wow, its not Ecuador.  Ok, ok, maybe I paint Ecuador red, but the truth is that it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  And upon arriving in Piura, although it isn’t exactly the most cosmopolitan place ever, its amazing the difference in culture and sophistication which I rediscovered after these almost two months.  Oh, and did I mention that the internet works here?

Road CornWhat else?  Hmm, so I’ve decided to add the little CE to the header of these periodic updates, which signifies Current Events (ok, perhaps a bit cheesy but let me know if you think of some better acronym), since as Rachel was reading the site last time she menetioned that it was a little confusing as to what was a flashback from my storytelling of where I’d left off and when I was just making a quick update.

Also, for those of you who aren’t familiar to Twitter, I’m going to introduce you to it, since a friend of mine recently mentioned something to me which made me think that perhaps it might be a fun idea to share it with you.  Alright, so I’ve already been using Tiwtter on the website for some time now – its the little news blurbs on the right nav bar that I put up from time to time.  What it does is allow me to update the site from my cell phone when I don’t have internet access… however, it can do a whole lot more than that.

For now, I think that the element that I’ll share with you is that if you are actually interested, you can get my Twitter updates sent to you mobile phone.  I’m going to try to explain this in terms that even my mother could understand (if thats actually possible), so stick with me and open a new window (actually, its really simple… I think).

1.  Go to http://www.twitter.com

2.  At the bottom of the screen click on the green button that says “Get Started — Join”

3.  After you’ve filled out all of your info and hit “Create Your Account,” it should take you to your profile screen

4.  In the top right-hand corner of the screen click on “Find People”

5.  On the next screen, directly under the words “Find People.  Follow Them,” click on the little tab that says “Find on Twitter”

6.  Type in the name “ipedaler” in the text field that comes up and hit enter

7.  When my little red picture shows up, click the word “Follow” to the right of my profile blurb

Bam!  That’s it, you’re following me.  If you have any problems with this, there’s a little help tab up at the top right hand corner of the screen – I’ll let you handle it from there (although I suppose you can email me if you’re stuck hehe)

Ok, hmm, I think thats it for catching up.  Alright, so what’s on the menu next?

Two Japs & a DonkeyWell, as ridiculous as this might sound, I’m stuck here until Monday because….. I’m waiting for my laundry.  But to be honest with you, I think its probably for the best, as I just got here yesterday and need a few days of rest before what is to come next.  On Monday morning (probably at four or five in the AM) I’ll be leaving Piura and heading Southward through the Sechura desert.  Ok, this time when I say desert, I mean REAL desert.  Apparently there’s nothing out there – and it goes on for a long time.  The distance is about 200 kilometers, and although, because of the heat, I was thinking of taking three days to do the journey, I’m thinking that perhaps two would be better for my state of sanity.

What I’ll probably try to do is cover at least 100 kilometers each day and tomorrow I’m going to see if I can’t find a super-cheap beach umbrella to take with me, as there apparently won’t be anything to use for shade out there in the endless sand and to be honest with you, my tent gets real real hot when the air starts boiling in it.  Maybe that way I can stop and take breaks along the side of the road under the umbrella during the hottest hours of the day and just ride in the early morning, and, if necessary, in the later evenings as well.

So that’s about the lot of it!  Next stop, Chiclayo, Peru – and my first destination along the coast!  I can’t wait!  Things have been looking up since I got to Peru, so I’m feeling optimistic and ready for some ancient ruins (which are apparently littered around that city and a bunch of places from thereafter until the Bolivian border).  Will post another log from Colombia tomorrow and get some more photos up between now and when I leave.  Wish me luck, and if you don’t hear from me by Wednesday, hopefully its because I’m slung up somewhere along the Pacific coast and not a scorched carcass in the Peruvian desert.

24
Jan
09

Trapped in Cuenca – Thanks FedEx

CuencaHere I am, still in Ecuador, still making very slow progress.  I´m not sure if I´d mentioned in any of the previous posts, but the reason that its taking me so ridiculously long to get to Peru is because I´ve been waiting for my credit and debit cards to be delivered ever since when I was robbed in Quito.  Thanks to FedEx, which is now yet another week behind on their delivery, I can´t leave until I´ve received my delivery.  I won´t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that if you´re going to try to send something internationally, don´t bother wasting your money on the incompetence of FedEx – plus, once its departed the country of origin, FedEx there will no longer provide any support to you at all.

Ok, well, I needed to get that off my chest (using less profanity here than in the letters that I sent to them).  Apart from that, as soon as the delivery does arrive I´ll be back on my way and am now sitting within one to one and a half weeks from the Peruvian border.  Fortunately, of all the places that I could be stuck waiting for a package, Cuenca is one of the three most beautiful cities I´ve visited since leaving the U.S. – alongside Mexico City and Cartagena.

Since the last update I finally left Baños, continued onwards to Riobamba, waited there for my package for several days (before having to reroute it to Cuenca, due to FedEx´s incompetence), then caught the Nariz del Diablo train near Alausi.  Sadly the almost $8 that I spent on the train ticket was really a bust, since THE day that I went to catch the train was the same day that they banned roof-riding on the train, which is basically the entire point of taking the trip.  Then there was also the fact that the journey basically looked just like the places that I bicycle through (sheer drops over endless cliffs), so it wasn´t particularly exciting for me.  Oh well, live and learn.

Charlie´s AngelsAs far as here in Cuenca, I´m starting to get the photos up on Flickr, so hopefully soon you´ll start to get somewhat of an idea of the sheer beauty of the place.  Fortunately I´ve had my ¨Hollandaise¨ friend, Susan, here to live it up with me during my down time in Cuenca, and aside from our own trials and tribulations, we´ve managed to get some killer salsa dancing sessions in at a hip and sultry club here in town.

After leaving Cuenca it should be almost a straight shot to the border, however, with one stop in a small town called Vilcabamba.  Fortunately this town happens to lie right along my impending route, as everyone has said spectacular things about it, and now that I´m in the Southern Highlands of Ecuador it looks like I´ve escaped the all day rains of the Central Ecuador and am ready for some days in the beautiful spring-like hills before my next chapter.

Will Twitter you all in when I manage to get out of Cuenca.  Until then, happy January and enjoy the photos!

In Another Life

19
Jan
09

Lazy-Skates

RiobambaHey, yeah I know, it probably looks like I´ve been shirking off this whole time and hardly any new entries have made it up, but I´m a very busy guy! Actually, I really have been working on some important things this past week and I also got distracted by an eccentric Ukrainian who monopolized all of my time for three days.

However, I am working on the entry for Cartagena and the first few weeks in Colombia and should have them up tonight or tomorrow. Right now I´m in Riobamba awaiting the arrival of some backup supplies from the States but should be on the Nariz del Diablo (the Devil´s Nose) train to Aluasi on Wednesday if everything goes according to plan. I think that will also put my in Cuenca, the last major city in Ecuador (before I cross into Peru) on Thursday.

Also, plenty of new photos in the gallery, hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any comments. Saludos!

In Another Life

11
Jan
09

Huge Flickr Update & Panama City Post Disclaimer

Here Ye, Here Ye!Here ye here ye!  That’s right, hundreds of new photos are up and ready in my Flickr gallery and it looks like on that end I’m finally starting to get caught up!  For those of you who haven’t visited the gallery before, the link is in the right-hand navigation bar – let me know if you have any feedback or comments while you’re there (you can leave comments underneath individual photos in the comments box).

Also, a quick apology if the last update on Panama is a little sketchy and disorganized – only have access to WiFi and electrical outlets in the common area of the guesthouse where I’m staying right now, and last night it was like trying to focus and write while sitting in an Irish Pub.  Will try to avoid similar situations in the future… although for now, that post will just have to do, as the goal at this point is onward and upward (not revision and re-writing), plus it wasn’t a particularly exciting period to write about.

Am hard at work on the next post and should have it up by tomorrow, if not tonight.  Again, look forward to your comments either here (by clicking on the little comments bubble under an entry title) or on Flickr, and for now, back to work!

08
Jan
09

The Frigid Heights of Central Ecuador

A Little ChillyNow I know that you probably all think that I´ve been very lazy lately – but I haven´t!  I just haven´t been finding the time to write.  Well, that´s all about to change, as tomorrow I arrive (back) in Banos, and, as I like to call it begin my writers camp!  Am dedicating an entire week to adding new stories, photos, and whatever other fluff I can possibly think of (maybe even maps!… we´ll see).

As for life right now: Mom is fine, still stressed out, Grandma is… oh wait, not those updates.  So, New Year´s was nice, nothing spectacular (at least, not that I can remember), some parading on the streets, then darkness, then a wicked hangover in the morning (actually, all day long – I only got out of bed to go downstairs and order a pizza in the restaurant on the first floor of the hostel).

On the second, once Elkin and I had recovered from our unfortunate recourse, we agreed that we´d both had enough of the frigid weather and attitudes in Quito and decided to head to the jungle for some jungle style relaxation.  We spent three days in Tena, white water rafting, checking out the tropical animal zoo, climbing and swimming through pitch black caves (in my underwear!  I didn´t know it was going to be a bathing suit affair), and just generally relaxing and eating fat hamburgers.

Married LifeThe day that we got back it was time for Elkin to head on, so after a sad goodbye, back to Medellin he went.  I on the other hand, found myself back in Quito, right where I didn´t want to be – so the following morning I set off Southward once again.

That evening, after climbing over 1000 meters on my bike, I finally arrived in frigid Cotopaxi Park, surrounded by snow covered peaks and enshrowded in heavy mists.  It was a rude awakening, to say the least, as I hadn´t camped in almost freezing temperatures since leaving Atlanta last winter – and ya know what? Its gonna take a little getting used to again…

Funny thing about Latin America is, there ain´t no getting used to it.  Although its still quite chilly here in Latacunga about 40 kilometers South of Cotopaxi, after a huge downhill race from my old campsite, the temperatures picked up a little (just a little!), but tomorrow when I hit Banos we´ll be back in warm and temperate conditions – ah joy!

Think that puts us up to speed for now.  Will throw a couple of pics of the view from my campsite on Cotopaxi and from my little excursion to the Thursday morning market in Saquisili up for ya and you can look forward to plenty of new content in the week to come.  Saludos!

30
Dec
08

Quitosis

Mister EcuadorHola from Quito, Ecuador!  Ok, nice country, but they´ve got some serious internet service issues around here.  Haven´t actually connected to WiFi since arriving (about two weeks ago!), and not for lack of trying. Plus, everywhere that I find internet, its a real piece.

Anyway, so here I am, and since arriving in Ecuador I must say that its been the best of the best and the worst of the worst (ok, really only on one issue which you might have already learned about from my Twitter feed).  Had a few 100km+ bike rides while racing towards Quito after crossing the Ecuadorian border, and although I had intended to be pedaling through the Ecuadorian desert for Christmas, when I got there it just didn´t seem all that appetizing to me to break out the camping equipment – so I decided to torture myself on the twenty kilometer uphill, steep ascent to Quito – mierda!

Miraculously, I arrived in Quito on Christmas Eve!  Then, the following morning I deserted my bicycle in the city and hopped on a bus to Baños to meet up with Sarah, my English buddy from Colombia, to ring in the holidays.  Had an absolutely spectacular time in Baños for the next two and a half days (yes, very drunk… whose idea was it to sell bottles of rum and wine for $2 anyway??).

Finally headed back to Quito to meet up with Elkin who was flying in from Medellin, and also to send off Sarah (who was off to Rio de Janeiro for the new year) and my new friend Adrea.  Had some nice sight seeing around Quito before getting my pants slashed and my wallet stolen on a crowded bus, however that really dampened my spirits (even though they only got my five bucks haha).

After fighting thousands of dollars of fraudulent charges on all of my cards and getting them canceled, I finally returned to my old self and today we headed up the TeleferiQuo (a ski lift up the mountainside alongside Quito) to climb Ruku Pichincha.  Have to say, it was one of the hardest climbs I´ve ever done – gasping for air and scrambling up a crumbling rock face – and, sadly, I forgot my camera!

Anyway, thats as far as I´ve gotten so far, just gearing up for the big New Years bash here in Quito tomorrow night.  I would update more, but I could barely stand to write this much, as each time I press the delete button it takes two minutes for the computer to figure it out and ten minutes for each page to load or sentence to appear.  The quest for decent internet continues, and will keep you posted!  Also, without WiFi, photos can´t make it online either, so hopefully will get that figure out soon.

Ok, much love to all and a phenomenal New Year!  Don´t let strange people rub you up in crowded buses and trains!

xoxo