Thursday, August 10, 2006

Report # 10

Hi Folks,

Greetings from south Colombia - on my way to Ecuador.

I left you in Bogotá last Sunday I think. I was in a hostal with a great mixture of characters, USA, Dutch, Norway, Colombia, Israel, an Aussie girl from Coorparoo (near us in Bris) - hi Maria - Thee were several pot smokers, the smell was around all the time. Great owners who spoke English. Very hospitable.

A short geog lesson for you all: Col is roughly a square but pushed a bit out of shape - push left side up - to be a parallelogram, with Panama joined to middle of left side. The entire eastern side of Col - one third or one half is jungle or Amazon headwaters. so little population and no roads. I entered to Leticia in bottom right, and flew to Bog which is about dead centre. I overflew the equator so am now in nth henisphere. But i could not see equator from the high altitude!!

The Andes mts run nth to sth close to coast but they are in roughly 3 parallel ranges with Bog in the far inland one. There are major roads and rivers running N-S between the ranges; the Pan-Amer h-way is in the valley closest to coast.

Temp here is governed almost entirely by altitude as the seasons are almost identical except perhaps fro rain. Bog was 2600 mts which I thought was same as ACT, till I realised that Canberra is in feet and Bog is in mts = 8000ft - higher than Kosiosko. Altitude has not affected me. So Bog was very warm days but very cool-cold nights.

I went to the once a week Sunday market near my hostal which sells everything imaginable mostly used but some new. Old magazines from 1970, old PC motherboards, record players for old LPs, used radios, watches, tape recorders, typewriters(!), clothes, shoes etc. I got a new watch "Swatch" for $2 as the band on my other one broke.

Monday I walked the streets but it was raining a fair bit on and off, also the President was being inaugurated for his second term so many streets were barricaded off. There are unknown number of police groups in Bog - MP ( not what we mean), Council , Traffic, Tourist, Ecology, Bogmet, Lofar (??) and others all with diff uniforms so at any time there are heaps of groups of police standing in groupds talking or walkin. Lots of street beggars and those who have to sleep on street - they all seem to have a dog , probably for protection and warmth at night. Garbage colect is like Brazil - put out all the plastic bags on corners or light poles and beggars scavange it then army of workers comes around an collects it all. Also there are army of sweepers going round all the time sweeping the footpaths dtuff into gutters and then collectors come round and sweept that up and collect it. Overall impression is much cleaner and tidier than brazil and buildings are neater and not so dillapidated. People are quieter but friendly and of course dressed more for warmth that in Brazil.

On Monday met a guy from San Agustin who said we should go there - he is well educated and travelled, speaks English, Hebrew, some German, has dreadlocks to his waist looks hippy, into shamanism, has degree i think in Agro-ecology. Has cabins in San Agustin with no elect or gas for cheap rent - $2 pp. Says that night buses to SanA are best and no danger from rebels - no trouble in 20 yrs. So a Dutch couple and I booked tickets for Tues night, about 8 hrs trip for 400 approx kms.

(Sherry I decided that it was a waste of time to simply stay in Bog - tks for help and advice , enjoy your stay. It is now Thurs and you are arriving in Bog.!!!!!)

So Tuesday I just walked around and got ready, rain was a dampener. But rain here seems to be mainly in early morn. We travelled down the highway to Pitalito - between the 2-3 ranges. Then got a colectivo to go 40 kms east to San-A in the hills. They are twin-cab pick-ups with a cover and seats in back. So 8-10 people squeeze in and pile luggage on roof rack - $2 fare. San-A is a village of 5000 in midst of dozens of sites of ancient stone carvings - try this site

for some pictures. They date from 3300 BC (!!!) and are believed to be from 3 diff societies and are just amazing. Nobody knows anything about the groups but the experts have drawn lots of info from the stones. They vary in height fom 1-2 mts. We met a guy who rents horses and is a guide so we accepted (the two Dutch and I) - $2 each the horse, and $8 for him for guide. The two had never been on horse before but showed no fear. We rode for 3 hrs less stops at the 4 sites we visited. After 30-45 mins I let the horse canter (guide stayed at rear all the time, so i took lead) and from then on we galloped an many stretches. Fabulous fun!!! The horses are mtn ponies about size of burro, and they walk with a ver fast dancing step - not uncomfortable really but certainly diff. So we visited these sites and he explained details. One has colours on the stone from local trees and he showed us the trees and put some dye on his skin - very bright and obvious. But after 50-80 statues it gets a bit monotonus. He dropped us at local parque museum and we walked a couple of kms. Legs were sore at end of ride but not today. Also had sugar cane wine during ride. They crush cane for juice boil till clear then leave for a week to ferment. Ends up colour of orange and sweet but slight wine taste. Guide was very complimentary about my riding - said with one week of practice i could get a job working with horses here and be a vaquero. (Thank You).

I stayed at cabin next to where the dutch couple stayed but this was with a family. They live in one room and have two rooms above for rent. The showers is cold water with no curtain so i showered with her helping husband fix motor bike 5 mts away in full view!! Cost was $2.50 for night! We booked ticket to leave San-A the next morn at 5.30 am and came by 20-seat bus 120 kms on dirt road 4 mts wide - when bus comes other way one stops. Took 5.5 hrs, basically we had to cross the middle range of mtns into the next big valley where the Pan-Am h-way is. But htat meant non-stop switchback twist and turn up and down thru valleys and over mtns every mt of the way. At one point we were averaging 15 kms per hr. Came to one sort-of plateau that was still very hilly but much less mountainous than the rest, where all the people outside were wearing beanies - head-gear - woolen sweaters and boots and there was a verrrry strong weind blowing. So I assume we were in very high parts. Eventually we desscended down to the town of Popayán from where we get bus to Ecuador. I am leaving tonite at 10 for 7 hr trip of 370 kms to Ipiales the last town before border and from there get 5 hr bus to Quito. So am now definitely in tropics but temp depends on altitude. This town is very warm almost hot even tho it is 2500 mts. We have to cross another range of mtns before we get to border. But paved road all the way this time.

Okay enough for now.

Bye, hugs, Nobby