Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Cotachi

On Sunday, after a well rested night (I had a luxury room with a tv so got into bed early, watched tv and crashed about 10.30pm - rock and roll!) I decided to check out another Andean town close by, Cotachi which is only 20mins away on a local bus. It is renowned for being the leather town so I headed there to check out what was on offer!

It was a cute little town much like Otavalo with most of the local people wearing the traditional dress, but it was on a smaller scale with only 1 main street filled with shops selling handmade leather items.

The majority of it was South American fashion but they did have a few really nice things (like a pony skin bag and a $200 dollar shawl which I completely fell in love with).

After wandering a shopping for a few hours, I bought a few bits and ended up leaving town with only the essentials (!)- a new handbag (Roge I sadly said goodbye to the many pocket bag), a new pair of shoes and a shawl (don't panic, I resisted the amazing but expensive one).

It was about $40 for everything and considering it's all leather, I reckon that's pretty good!

So I got back on the bus with all my shopping, headed back to Otavalo. After picking up my backpack I got a bus straight to Quito. I went in the hope of meeting back up with Chanelle & Alice who had left Colombia the day after me and headed straight there. Sadly Pam was MIA as she had gone to Rosa's farm (the nice lady from Minca), and landed herself a job teaching English for a month!

xxx

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Market Day

It was finally market day and I was excited to see what all the hype was about.

I started the day relatively early at 7.30am to head to the crazy animal market on the western edge of town. This part of the market is like nothing I have ever seen before!

Local indigenous people go and mill around with goats, cows, pigs and various other things on leads where they haggle, inspect and bargain over the best animals!

They also turn up with bags and crates rammed full of live hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs all ready to sell. I would like to think that they are being bought by people as nice pets for children, however I fear that the question of the 'mystery meat' I have been eating for the last few months, has now been solved!

There were even kittens on sale which I really really hope were being sold as pets and not food....

After spending a few hours there marvelling and being completely in ore of the whole sight, I wandered into the main part of the town.

There were stalls set up everywhere and every inch of road and pavement was full! There was a definite lean towards the beginnings of rough logic to the layout with different roads being dedicated to different things, like fruit and veg street. There was even a red indian street selling only feather head pieces, dream catchers and what seemed to be Pocahontas fancy dress gear (which I was soooo tempted to buy!). In true South America scatty style, there were however many roads selling absolutely everything with no order to them at all. Some stalls were selling traditionally made handicrafts while others were selling chicken feet, and others tourist souvenir rubbish!

All of the 'Otavale├▒os' (local indigenous people) remain self determined and culturally uncompromised and most of them wear nothing but the traditional dress. You can also buy this from head to toe at the market with so many trimmings, decorations and hats in bright colours making the whole scene so full of life and colour.

I couldn't resist adding so many photos to this post to try to get across the full sensory experience that was Otavalo market.

xxx

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Crossing into Ecuador

The bus perhaps for the first time on this trip, actually took the amount of time it was meant to and got me to the border on time (around 9am).

After getting my passport checked and my stamps, I was so close to successfully crossing the border into Ecuador. BUT got asked to go to the police hut and have my bag searched. I'm sure the police guy just wanted to chat and practice his English as he definitely didn't do a thorough search.

He did however search long enough to find the 'cock trump' playing cards (thanks G.O.T for those!) and have a good look through. He actually found them so amusing that he called his friends over to play a quick game with him, whilst pointing and laughing at the photos! Ha. Again thanks for those girls...

Once I was safely over the border, I had another 4 hour bus journey but eventually I arrived safely in the Andean town of Otavalo. It was Friday afternoon so perfect to explore a little before the madness of the market really got going the next day.

xxx

Friday, 24 February 2012

Ridiculous Bus Ride Numero Dos

So slightly blinded by the tears and crying I settled into the bus ride to the Colombian border which was 20 hours away!

The bus was again ridiculous but this time in a good way as it was an amazing upmarket and modern bus. They gave you free headphones, there were flatscreen TVs and it even had wifi - it was more like getting on a plane! So at least for the journey I was crying in comfort and being entertained! I even watched Ratatouille (in Spanish) as Disney films always make you feel better!

xxx

An emotional goodbye...

So the next morning we all got up and I had made my mind up about what I was going to do.

I had decided that although I would be super sad to leave the girls (Pam, Chanelle & Alice), I wanted to get moving and try to make it to what is rumoured to be South Americas best market in Otavalo. It is about 2 hours north of Quito so I knew I was in for another long, hardcore bus journey.

I was really sad about leaving the girls and also leaving Colombia because I could have easily spent ALOT more time there. But not only I was up against time, it was also eating away at my money and I wanted to get to Ecuador as its cheaper and save some pennies where possible.

So Thursday morning I booked my cab to the bus station and it arrived even before I had a chance to say a proper goodbye. It was a quick hug and a 'hopefully see you again in Ecuador!' I left the girls sat on the Internet deciding where in Colombia they were going to head to next.

I spent the rest of the morning crying at the bus station and on the bus super sad at our adventure not continuing!

xxx

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Graffiti

As I said, Bogota is covered in graffiti and this is just some cool stuff I saw...

xxx

Walking Tour of Bogota

After a good nights sleep, we woke up feeling refreshed from the bus journey and were keen to explore Bogota. At 2600m above sea level, this was the first time I had been in a proper altitude since Mexico and wasn't prepared for the cold or the shortness of breath after only a few steps!

We set off pretty early as we wanted to have a full day taking in the city. The 4 of us were unsure of our next stop after Bogota and whether we were going our separate ways, but I was considering moving on the next day to make it to a market in Ecuador for Saturday. So in the back of my mind I only really had 1 day to enjoy Bogota.

We started off with a little walking tour of the main plazas, churches and getting a feel for the old part of the city. One thing we did notice which I hadn't seen anywhere else on my trip was loads of graffiti, not just tagging but really good art (photos to follow). Perhaps even more exciting though, is that we also saw a llama just chilling in one of the plazas, our first for South America!

We then headed to the Gold museum which is famous in Colombia as having the countries best collection. There are gold museums in pretty much every city, and we had avoided them until now! But it ended up being a really interesting display & exhibition. It mostly detailed the different regions of Colombia and how the indigenous people had used gold in different ways to create different tools and the most amazing jewellery! All the tribes believed the more gold, gems and jewellery you wore the better - my thoughts exactly!!

After a few hours of culture, we headed to the funicular (another 500m up) which provides a full view over the city. It was amazing to see how large it was, but the only monuments to really look out for were the stadium and the bull fighting ring. It didn't compare to London with points of interest and things to spot everywhere you look.

We ended the day sat around the fire in the hostel all wondering what we would do the next day and if after all our good times together we might split and go our own way. Always best to sleep on it and decide the next day...

xxx

Ridiculous Bus Ride

The next day we decided we had done enough partying (for the time being) and headed on the overnight bus to Bogota. But not before having a last glass of wine and much laughter with the Druncles!

The bus was due to take 8 hours and arrive in Bogota at about 7am but ended up being the most ridiculous bus journey ever!

The road all the way was a windy lane so we were being thrown all over the place. Oh and there was 3 screaming babies - joy!
Then there was a major accident on the road meaning the only 2 lane road was blocked for a good 2 or so hours. Then after all of that, the bus stopped on the side of a dark road in a dust car park at about 3am for about 3 hours with no idea why?! We wondered if some kind of drug deal was going down with the bus driver!

And actually we are not sure that the driver had any idea where he was actually going. In the morning, we saw a sign for Bogota saying it was 100km away but with 4 hours of solid driving (and no traffic) we still weren't there - it just didn't make any sense!

The whole journey no one said anything to the whole bus about why it was taking so long and if we had diverted our route etc. We were all just left wondering and completely in the dark!

Normally I don't mind getting on silly long bus rides, when you actually know & are prepared for it. But having no idea what was going on and why it had taken so long made it soo frustrating.

Oh and to add to this we didn't stop all day so were all starving with our legs cramping and going dead. You can imagine the moods of us 4 ladies at this point!

So at about 5pm and after 18 hours we eventually arrived, so happy to be finally off the bloody bus!

xxx

Medellin VS Cali

On Sunday night, we went with the Druncles to see the first match of the football season, which was Medellin VS Cali. There is a big history between the 2 cities (mostly due to the drug cartels), so it was a pretty important game.

So I ventured to my first ever football match and discovered that the Colombians take it very seriously, although I suppose no more so than back home!

Out of 30,000 people at the stadium, there were only 1000 Cali fans who had shown up to support their team. At first I wondered why, but then it quickly became apparent due to the serious rivalries between the fans. The Cali supporters spent the whole match penned in by riot police, getting mocked, sworn at and chanted to by the crowd. I'm sure half the people at the game where there for that sole purpose and didn't actually watch any football. The Cali supporters also didn't even get to see the end of the match! They missed the last 15 minutes as the police had to escort them out of the stadium and onto buses to try and stop any serious hardcore fighting after the match.

We were obvs supporting Medellin, (especially as one of the Druncles lives there) and they won 4-0, hooray!

After the match we celebrated and continued the 4 day party we appeared to all be on!

xxx

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Druncles and Dranties

Saturday night we hit the town again.

So after watching UFC and drinking we headed out close to our hostel to experience some typical Saturday night antics, create some of our own and live up to the Druncle & Drantie names!

It was a really good night, but again the night weirdly ended with us all sat in the park - we all just seemed to gravitate there at 4am!

xxx

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Taking advantage of the Metro!

The next day, Saturday, we decided to make full use of the only city in Colombia (or anywhere I had been since Mexico City) to have a Metro and used it to get around to most of the city to get a feeling for the place.

We went for a walk in the Downtown Market area which was an experience as it so sooo packed because it was Saturday.

We then went to one of the few remaining old historic buildings in Medellin (quite a few got bombed and destroyed during the Paoblo Escobar days) which massively stands out because it's patterned grey & black and almost every other building in the city is built only from red brick. Next door to the building is one of the main squares of the city which is full of statues in the style of 'classic Colombian' art - and mostly contains fat women in strange poses!

We then hopped back on the metro and headed up the mountains (Medellin is built on about 4 mountains and the valley at the bottom) in the metro cable car - which was amazing for the views. The further up the mountains we headed, the poorer city seemed and the houses and communities began to look a little more like slums than what we had seen up until that point.

As I said almost all the buildings in Medellin are red brick so the views were pretty amazing with just a sea of red brick wherever you look!

At the very top of the metro, there is a huge nature park and reserve so we spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the park and the food market.

A perfect Saturday just wandering around town!

xxx

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Hangover and Paoblo Escobar

Actual mattresses on the bed and a dark room meant that we were able to sleep in for the first time in ages and we took full advantage - after waking up for the free breakfast we all snoozed until midday. Heaven!

Even after our long lay ins, we were all still pretty hungover, but booked to go on a tour about Paoblo Escobar, and I can safely say it was one of the strangest things I have done since I have been travelling...

The first stop was to visit Paoblo's house which in the 80s and early 90s was the most prestigious and luxury house in the whole of Medellin. Since then however, it has been looted for remaining drug money, bombed and every inch within reaching height has been graffitied.

The next stop was to visit Paoblo's grave - as I said all very strange, especially as he is buried in a church graveyard and there was a funeral taking place at the same time as us 20 gringos were all taking photos of Paoblo's headstone. All seemed very wrong!

From the 700 or so poor people that he built houses for (with drug money!), people still come to bless and mourn at his grave and give their thanks for his help. So while we were there a family also came to lay flowers, thank him and pray for him.

The last stop was a visit to Roberto Escobar's house (his brother) who has now been released from prison after serving his sentence, and welcomes tourists to come and hear 'his side of the story' and answer any questions. He is deaf and blind in 1 eye after receiving a letter bomb in prison, oh and he only speaks Spanish so it's kinda hard to communicate with him but luckily there was a translator!

He actually asked if I had a boyfriend which was very cringe as I politely declined his offer, but the whole thing was pretty funny!

The house is literally a shrine to him and his brother with pictures and memorabilia everywhere! He even has a copy of the wanted poster with a $1 million dollar reward, which was used to help capture them, casually up in his living room!

Safe to say a very odd day!

xxx

Friday, 17 February 2012

Medellin

When we arrived in Medellin, (after an epic bus ride with amazing views) it was boiling hot, but we wandered around town for quite a while looking for a hostel that had space for the 4 of us. It was Australia day so everywhere was pretty busy with drunk Ozzies!

We ended up at an amazing hostel with a roof terrace, a proper fully fitted nice clean kitchen, hot water and a hot tub. It was pure luxury after the desert! And actually after most of Central America where we could barely find a luke warm shower.

So after showering, doing some laundry (it had been over 2 weeks with no clean underwear), we all felt human again and prepared for a night on the town with a carton of rum - standard!

We met a really funny group of guys at the hostel who referred to themselves as 'The Druncles' and us as 'The Draunties' (drunk uncles & aunties!) and we ended up spending a lot of our time in Medellin with them, living up to the names!

So on our first night in Medellin, we all went to a couple of bars then regressed back to our 15 year old days and drank in a local park. All in all, it was a pretty funny night!

xxx