Has that been 2 weeks already??
Well, the tour had to come to an end eventually. Despite several hitches early on in the trip (truck going kaput, tour leader quitting, lost and stolen phones - not my own this time, but can confirm Colombian police are a bit more adept at preparing a report than the Cuban are), I really enjoyed Colombia; it is a beautiful country with stunning scenery and friendly people. Apparently the country has more species of flora and fauna anywhere else in the world apart from Brazil, which it beats hands down if based per km2. However - beware of the coffee after all: 70% of their produce is exported, leaving the substandard dregs for its own use in Colombia - a disappointing discovery.
We visited some lovely places on the way to Ecuador, including the "white city" Popayan, a magnificent cathedral built in a deep valley in Ipiales, and a stunning lake at Guatape. My favourite place was probably the hacienda we stayed at on the grounds of a coffee plantation near the town of Manziales, where I survived my first hike to a glacier in the Colombian Andes at 4900m. Ok, so we started at 4000m, but it was tough through the rain and snowstorm along the way. And the 11-in-the-car-built-for-7 five hour journey back. All part of the fun...
Overall I found Colombia surprisingly modern and affluent (at least, more than I had expected perhaps). Of course there are places you need to be wary, but it is much easier and safer to travel than you may be led to believe before coming here.
Last Friday we crossed into Otovalo in Ecuador, where we visited the famous market before the 13 of us enjoyed a last supper of sorts, cooking in the grounds of hostel with gorgeous mountain views (pic above); then the next day we made our way to Quito, with a stop at the Equator. The Ecuadorians sure know how to make a song and dance about their namesake, but the yellow paint denoting the 0 degree lattitude needs a touch-up.
I didn´t see much of Quito, other than the gringo-centric Mariscal area, which was not very pretty. I am hoping it improves on my return (if all goes to plan, in two months or so). In the meantime, as the truck trundled off down the road to the jungle, I have been busy planning how to get to Cusco without breaking the bank or wanting to kill myself on a 38 hr bus journey to Lima. So far I have flown to Loja (and survived a super scary taxi ride from the airport by one of many-to-come erractic cabs), and hopped on a 9 hr bus across the border to Piura, where I have been eating my way through seven hours until my overnight bus to Lima. 15 hrs. Followed by 21 hr bus to Cusco the next day. Yippee!
I´ve met some interesting, friendly, memorable and inspiring people along the way so far - thanks to all of you if you are reading this. And to everyone at home for keeping me updated and laughing!
Baci y hasta luego xxx