Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

travel update from Colombia

Saludos a cada uno,
Cali, is Colombia`s third largest city with about 1.7 millions of people. It is about at 1000 meters above sea level in the heart of the Cauca valley, where most of Colombia`s coffee is grown. I am staying at the Iguana hostel, which is the same place i stayed last time I was here in October 2005 (see www.robertstravels.blogspot.com and click on =October 2005 in the archives on the left hand side of the page). The Iguana has moved around the corner from its previous location but a lot of the staff are still here and it is still a great place to stay. Let me fill you all in on the last couple of weeks...
I left Quito and headed north along the panamerican highway, which runs from British Colombia to tierra del fuego. I went to Ibarra, a pleasant city in the north of Ecuador with Tony, an American non-conformist who has been traveling (and sort of drifting) around the world for the last 2o or 30 years. He is about 10 years older than I am and a damned good traveling mate who doesn't make much noise and never complains about anything. He only speaks about 10 words of Spanish, so I do the translating. I gifted him my "Barron`s 501 Spanish verbs" book and he is going to try to learn Spanish...He is also a vegetarian so we have been sharing food expenses and cooking together when we can and going to veggie restaurants when we cant.
We stayed 2 nights at the classic Hostal Ecuador in Ibarra where Patricia the manager speaks near perfect English because she lived in a place called "Patterson City New Jersey" which is on the banks of the mighty Passaic river.... Well by coincidence, I was born in Patterson and so we had a nice long talk about "the old country".
Ibarra is a pleasant town/city and we had fun strolling around. I seem to have injured my cadera (hip). when I was in Quito and the pain just wont go away. I don't know what I did to it. I didn't fall or anything, it just has been sore and aches after i have been walking for a while and especially when I walk cuesta ariba (up hill). In truth I have just been taking some western medicine (acetaminophen, aspirin, voltaren,codeine ) and not resting it which is what it probably really needs.
After 2 nights we went to the frontera (border) crossing between Tulcan Ecuador. and Ipiales Co. on 10/12, the day my visa was to expire and crossed into Colombia. Well the Ecuador side is a 4 star cluster fuck !! There were at least 50 people waiting on line and there were 5 ventanillas (little windows) but only one border guard handling everyone. Incoming, Outgoing and refugees!! The line stretched outside and snaked around with everyone becoming annoyed and people trying to cut in. After nearly 2 hours of waiting, Tony and I were processed and stamped out in less than 5 minutes. On the Colombian side, it took us 5 minutes of waiting and 5 minutes of processing. We each got 60 day visas so I will be here probably till mid February.
We bargained with a taxista and got a ride to Ipialles for 4000 pesos (he wanted 7000). And stayed at the Belmont Hotel whose only redeeming quality is that it was cheap. It got a good write up in the Footprint guide and the lonely planet, but to me Belmont means Never again. dirty, noisy, ugly bathrooms blah blah blah. Just around the corner are 3 whore houses in a row with old fat hookers leering at you on the street as you walk by. well... What do you expect for 10,000 pesos per night?(they wanted 11,000. This is a country where one must negotiate everything).
One night was all it took. After about 14 hours in Ipialles we took a bus to the lovely and enchanting city of Popayan. And stayed in the dormitory at the Casa Familiar Turistica
We stayed there for 4 nights. I love Popayan. it is a beautiful old colonial city not unlike Sucre in Bolivia. All the centro district is a world heritage site. All the buildings are whitewashed and have orange terra cota tile roofs. The old gas lamps are all electric now, but the feeling remains the same. The hotel is just 300 meters from an outdoor marked which is really good. full of all kinds of fresh stuff and some great street-food-stalls. We had bar-b-qued arepas (little corn meal cakes) stuffed with queso fresco (fresh cow mild milk cheese) which cost 500pesos (40 cents American) each day and batter fried potato slices and empanadas with pipian ( a kind of potato, they mash and mix with peanut butter and put in a folded over circle of corn dough and fry) Very Knish like food. I love them madly. They also make them as tamales but these are steamed and taste even better!!
So After four lovely and interesting days in Popayan, I took the bus to Armenia and from there to Salento in the Zona Cafeterria, which is the Valle Cualca where all the Colombian coffee comes from. Salento is a tiny town of some 3500 inhabitants. There is a very nice backpackers hostel here called the Plantation House. I have been here now for 3 and a half days and I leave tomorrow for Bogota, the capital city of Colombia where I have reserved a bunk from 22/12/08 to 3/1/09 at the Platypus hostel. My time here in Salento is very uneventful. I am reading a book by Durrell and hanging out in the hammock (which is fortunately under a tin roof cover) as it is the rainy season here in the Colombian highlands and it has been raining intermittently all the while I am here. There is a famous mirador (view point) here that is 250 steps up hill and there is a fabulous view of the valley below and the river which is quite swollen and beautiful. All along the steps there are the stations of the cross which is a catholic thing about following the death march of Jesus. Rather gruesome those Catholics. why don't any of the churches have stained glass of healing the lepers or feeding fishes and loaves? it is always gruesome torture scenes, St Sebastian with all those arrows sticking out of him, St Peter crucified upside down, Jesus being scourged, and the like. I don't get it. So anyway, I have been enjoying some excellent coffee and reading and chilling out as usual.
So now It is Christmas eve. December 24. I have been in Bogota for 2 nights and I have moved from the Platypus to the Hostel Sue. I like it better and it is cheaper. Bogota is pretty manic, with shoppers everywhere looking for last minute gifts.I don't really like being a traveler during the busy Holiday season. Everything gets all crowded up and more expensive than other times of the year. I will stay here another 10 days until the holidays are over, then i think I will head over to a sleepy little village called Mompos and hide out from the world for a while longer.
I have been accepted to be a volunteer kitchen manager at a Buddhist retreat center called Moulin de Chaves ( www.moulindechaves.org ) and will be in south France this summer for 4 or 5 months. Ahh yeah its tough I know but some one has to do it. I sure can understand why all you at home are still working but I just like my own way and so I will continue to follow the sun. Dancing to the beat of my own drummer. Maybe we can all meet and meditate in South France this summer hhmmmm??
Well until the next update probably in early January I wish you all well. Merry Christmas to you Christians and happy new year to all. Here as usual are a few quotes from some people a little more wise than the average television addict!!
Peace and Love to all who read this,
Rambling Robert

"I do not write for those who have never asked themselves this question:´at what point does real lief begin´"- Lawrence Durrell
"That which you would not want done to you, do not do unto another: This is the whole Torah. The rest is commentary — now go study." Rabbi Hillel (responding to the challenge of teaching the whole of the bible while standing on one foot)
"It is better to travel well than to arrive." Buddha


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