Monday, February 22, 2010

South America 2010 - Day 9

I am off to a new trip...this promises to be a true adventure as I shift to more and more remote destinations in my travels. I am starting in Columbia, then off to Ecuador, where I will visit the Galapagos islands, followed by Chile and Easter Island, the most remote inhabited island in the world. Additionally, I will have a new type of a travel companion, my girlfriend Sara, which will probably help me to explore a more luxurious side of travel as she is not into hostels.

Our first stop was Bogota, Columbia where we only able to spend one night. We stayed in the city´s historic district and went to LaRosa at night. Although, we didn´t spend enough time in Bogota for a fair opinion to me it seems like many other cities with good parts and bad...there were many brand name stores as well as some very poor areas. What remained with me is that typically residential garbage is thrown on the street. Our italian hotelier Massimo explained that the homeless would steal garbage bins if the city had them.

Next morning we are off to Cartagena, the so called Miami of Columbia named after Cartagena, Spain. We stayed in the old city at the Charleston hotel, which is one of the best hotels in Columbia. The old city is an impressive reminder of european beauty that the Spanish have left behind. The best attraction is simply walking around and taking in the beauty of it. We took a day to visit the famous Playa Blanca beach on Isla Rosario. Due our basic knowledge of Spanish or lack thereof, we missed the boat´s first stop at the beach and ended up at the aquarium that we were warned would be boring so we quickly jumped or tresspassed on another boat that took us to the beach. Although, a must destination for anyone visiting Cartagena, since the city itself does not have a good beach, it is not as nice as some of the Carribean beaches. There are many locals who approach you every few seconds and try to sell you anything from ice cream to a massage. We did end up buying ice cream and a mysterious yellow fried snack, which was 2 for 50 cents. Although many a woman and man offered to wash our feet, we did not get that.

The next day we are off to Ecuador. We started with Quito, at 9000 ft above sea level it is one of the tallest capitals in the world, second to only LaPaz in Bolivia. Quito was very inexpensive but apparantely not very safe as even to go 3 blocks in the historic district we were recommended to take a taxi. The restaurants were on par with anything that you can find in NY and there were many real estate offices selling newly constructed homes at fire sale prices. Sara asked our hotel if there is anywhere we can walk in the evening and he said no, nothing is safe. Not following his advice we went to the historical center anyway and much to our surprise he was right.

After Quito we are off to the Galapagos Islands, a group of islands in Pacific Ocean, that lie on the equator and were made famous for their contribution to Darwin´s theory of evolution and natural selection. The only way to see the Galapagos Islands is on a cruise and we chose the M/S Santa Cruz, a 90 passenger, expedition ship to see them. Over the last 3 days we have seen a truly amazing group of animals ranging from Flamingos to Penguins. It was amazing to see many animals peacefully living with each other and many are only found on Galapagos and furthermore, many have adopted to the Galapagos and have little resemblance to their ancestors such as Swimming Iguanas. The peak of the expedition was snorkeling with the sharks. Another perk was that our room, which was supposed to be the worst room on the ship on the lowest deck, got upgraded to one of the best suites on the ship.

During our trip we found out that there was an earthquake in Chile, near the capital city of Santiago, our next destination. This will definitely affect our travel plans and we will keep you updated. Now we can let spontaneity take over.