Tuesday 28 October 2008

A beautiful coconut head!

It didn't take long after arriving in Goa for us to want to throw ourselves straight in to the Arabian sea. Unfortunately, the sea-floor was slightly more undulating than Dave expected...doof!
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Monday 25 June 2007

Bogota - plastic surgery capital of the world!

Well, having sad our adíos to the Caribbean coast, we headed on an 18 hour bus journey to Bogota, not really sure what to expect. The sleeping tablets worked a treat and we landed full of beans. Bogota was an absolute treat, full of galleries, museums, fancy shopping malls and gorgeous places to eat and shimmy!

It was the first time I was ever in an art gallery (Botero), where the ushers smiled and were mad for chat. The warmth of the Colombian people never ceased to amaze us. We ended up hanging out in Bogota for about 5 days, trying to figure out how to head to Peru (with the help of our new student cards!). Never once did we feel threatened or unsafe, compared to any of the Central American capitals. It was so nice to just wander around, eat, drink and be merry. We even went for a boogie downtown, which was a bit of a larf. It certainly is a visual treat for the lads, considering the enhanced cleavage of most young females!

Tayrona National Park - hidden paradise

Having returned to civilisation after 6 days hard slog in the jungle, we headed to Tayrona National Park to hang out on the beach and do nothing. That´s exactly what we did. Each day involved sleeping in a hammock, waking up for sunrise, hanging out on the beach, collecting coconuts (those trees are a death threat, we could hear them dropping all night on our hut!) and mangoes and then playing cards and nodding off at the latest by 10 or 11, on a late night. It was heaven! We stayed 4 days, until our money ran out (bank machines don´t exist out there, along with every other normal modern luxury). We then headed back to Santa Marta reluctantly, as we knew it would be at least another month before we were back on the beach and it would be the last time we saw the Caribbean. What a swan song!!

La Ciudad Perdida - penance in the jungle!

6 days of serious hiking, crossing rivers chest high, sleeping in hammocks, constantly wearing smelly wet clothes and nursing blisters, sore muscles and lots of mozzie bites; the trek to the Lost City was absolutely amazing.

The Lost City is set in the Tayrona National Park on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and was only discovered sometime during the 50's. About 5 years ago a group of British and Israeli tourists trekking to the Lost City were kidnapped by guerillas and kept hostage for three months. We didn't tell our folks that before setting off!

There was a group of twelve of us and we hiked between 4-6 hours each day. It took us three days to get to the Lost City and yes, it was physically excruciating at times. But oh did we eat and sleep afterwards and felt like we deserved it.

The park is inhabitated by the Kogi tribe, who still use the Lost City as a sacred ground. The darker side of the story is the fact that there are numerous cocaine factories within the park, it was even an optional visit as part of the trek!!

As most people say about doing treks like the Inca trail or this one, it is often the journey and not the destination which has the most impact on you (how long have I been waiting to use that one!!). It really was a physically and mentally amazing journey which reduces you to you, your rhythm and the nature which surrounds you (and lots of card games). I would so recommend the whole experience from start to finish, from the warmth and generosity of our guides, to the bonding of the group (on the whole) to the reward of seeing such natural and unadulterated beauty.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Round 2 - Colombia te quiero!

Well alot has happened in the last month. It's funny how plans change so easily, when we were planning this trip we only intended to go to Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica in Central America. We ended up going to every Central American country, bar El Salvador, and legged it out of Costa Rica after ten days cause we got washed out. Of course we never thought to check that it would be rainy season. Us Paddy's like to think we know what a rainy climate is like, I don't think so. After about a week of torrential rain where having a conversation with somebody is difficult because of the noise on the roof, we decided to shelve the rest of our Costa Rican plans for the Caribbean coast and leg it to Panama.
Panama City was really weird, a big oppressive modern, rich city where electronics are super cheap. So, despite the guilt factor, we spent a day in an air-conditioned mall shopping, it was a treat. I even had sushi!

After doing the Panama Canal and dossing around town for a while waiting for a boat to sail to Colombia, we got ants in our pants and wanted to leave. We had been planning all along to sail to Colombia via the San Blas islands on a sail boat which would have taken about 5 days and sounded like pure bliss. The problem was the only boat going around our time frame was a small one which would only take 4 passengers. Luckily we ended up meeting the other two, who turned out to be freaky Americans who lived out of their laptops, so 5 days on a boat with them and the captain didn´t seem too appealing. So we hopped on a plane to Cartagena.

Considering Irish people needed a visa to get in to Colombia until January because of our republican friends (apparently they weren´t the only ones!!), we expected a bit of a grilling coming through immigration, like we´ve gotten at other borders. We got a céad míle fáilte and entered this beautiful country of amazing people.
Cartagena was one of the most beautiful colonial cities we´ve been too and the most depressing. The old colonial part is as elegant and opulent as any European city. We actually ended up being in Cartagena for it´s birthday so partied with the locals. Outside of the policed old town however, the streets at night transformed into seedy alleys of prostitutes and scavengers eating from bins, which I found quite bleak.

We left Cartagena and headed for Taganga, which is a beautiful little fishing village just outside Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast towards Venezuela. After spending a couple of days there, hanging out by the sea and drinking every combination of fruit juice from the ubiquitous street vendors, we headed for La Ciudad Perdida.

Sunday 27 May 2007

San Jose - lots of shoe shops and a hostel with a mechanical bull!

We had arranged to meet Lenny & Catherine again before they left Central America, so hooked up with them at Hostel Pangea, which advertises itself as the only hostel in the world with a mechanical bull.

The bull wasn´t working, but that didn´t stop Lenny & Dave seeking out a photo opportunity after a few beers.

San Jose isn´t as bad as some of the other Central American capitals we´ve been to. We thought it would be alot worse, but certainly not a city you´d visit unless you had to. This town has bars on all the windows and a shoe shop on every street corner. Our original plan was to nip through here en route to the Caribbean coast and head to Panama from there, but the weather´s so pants we´re going to fast track our way to Panama City and try to catch the first boat we can headed for Colombia. Hopefully it´ll all work out and we´ll start round two of this adventure in Colombia sometime next week. Bring it on!!

Monteverde, Costa Rica...adrenaline tapped!

Monteverde is a cloud forest area in the middle of Costa Rica, which took us 12 hours to get to from Montezuma, including 2 buses, 1 ferry and a taxi. It´s only about 150km in distance, but it was excruciating.

So we landed and hooked up with Scott & Alex again, having left Lenny & Catherine heading south. The canopy tour, a way to get from one tree to another on a zip line, was pioneered in Monteverde, and the tour we did had 18 zip lines and a tarzan swing (fear of heights = the whole flipping jungle heard me do that one!). It was too much fun, seriously.

We cooked up a storm in the hostel that night with Scott & Alex and lots of Imperial and giggle fits later, crashed out with the prospect of a 5am start for San Jose. No kidding, I haven´t been up later than 7am in about a month. It gets dark here at 6pm on the button every day so Central America wakes up with sunrise!!