July 13, 2004


We have left Ecuador and have spent the last week or so in Cartagena Colombia. We have one week to go now and have mixed feelings about going home. One the one hand it will be nice to not have to catch a bus every 3 or 4 days and sleep in our own bed and see our friends again. On the other hand it has been a fun 5 and a bit months and it will be strange adjusting to life back at home. If you click on the read more link below I briefly explain what we have been up to for the last little while, it isn't too long because I'm getting devoured by mosquitos at this computer in our hotel.

Our guide book describes Quito as a dangerous place which was kind of backed up by second hand stories from other travellers. We didn't have any problems and never really felt in danger but there were plenty of sketchy people around. The gringo neighbourhood of Quito is a Modern city with expensive restraunts and hotels and plenty of gringos. We didn't really like it too much and spent quite a bit of our time at a mall trying to watch Harry Potter 3 in English with spanish subtitles which we saw advertised in Cuenca. We ended up watching Spider Man 2 as well and enjoyed both of them. Quito brought us back into the land of menus with prices that do not include taxes or tip (10% tip is automatically added to most bills). So with a tax of 12% you can add 22% to all the prices which we aren't used to and bills are quite a bit larger than we expect. And Ecuador uses the ol' US greenback so you don't need to do any conversions in your head but you end up doing it anyways to see how many Peruvian soles something is and then spend a while thinking about how expensive everything is.

There seem to be 2 main tourist attractions to Quito, the old city and the Equator ("Middle of the World"). We went to both. The old city has some nice architecture but sketchy people so we didn't spend long there. The middle of the world was interesting. The monmument and line marking the equator are really 200 meters from the real equator because they are on the site that scientists calculated the equator to be in the 1700's. Although the scientists didn't bother looking at any of the Inca buildings in the area which we were told were exactly on the equator which kind of makes sense if you worship the Sun. There is a small museum type thing on the real equator which I thought was more interesting than the big flashy middle of the world monument.

At the real equator you can see the coriolis effect (water spinning in different directions down a drain on either side of the equator and not spinning at all on the equator). This may or may not have been somehow rigged but it was impressive. They also have a bunch of sun dial stuff and balance an egg on the head of a nail. They also have some information and displays on the various native tribes in Ecuador. Having seen all we needed to see in Quito we headed to Bogota with Aero Postal, Venezuela's airline.

We had a nice flight even though we had to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get to the airport for our 6am flght. We spent just a day in Bogota which really isn't enough time but Sarah wanted to spend a bunch of time in Cartagena and Santa Marta on the Carribean coast. So we flew to Cartagena the next day. After walking around checking out hotels we decided on a kind of expensive one but it is very nice and is in the old colonial part of town. What I have seen of Colombia so far, Bogota and Cartagena, is much more affluent than I would have expected. People are dressed way better than people are in Vancouver. I'm sure that there are much poorer areas that would be more like what I had expected but we haven't seen them.

Cartagena is known for its well preserved colonial old city. It is a beautiful city on the Carribean and has some OK beaches next to the city and excellent beaches a short boat ride away. We have been induldging ourselves a bit here and eatiing at pretty fancy restraunts that are expensive for us but cheap compared to equivalent restraunts back home. Cartagena is a tourist destination, not for your average south american gringo though, mostly for other Colombians. We haven't seen many other backpackers here, infact maybe none at all, but like I said we are staying and eating in somewhat expensive places. But since it is a tourist place we are hassled quite a bit by street vendors and the like. You can get knock off Cuban cigars for quite cheap here. We were curious about the price of a box and the guy said 120,000 pesos (about $60 canadian). We thought that was kind of expensive and said gracias but the guy must have thought that we were just bargaining and kept dropping his price as we kept saying no until he got down to 30,000 pesos. That tought us a valuable lesson about bargaining here.

We are still overwhelmed by the daytime heat and humidity after spending the last few months in the temperate Andean altitude. So we have spent quite a bit of time in our A/C'd room watching TV. When we are out of our room and not at a restraunt we have been at the beach or visiting old forts. There is one bar that we have gone to few times that is ontop of the old city wall and has excellent views of the sunset which you can watch from bed/couch type things.

We have been here for 7 nights and are heading to Santa Marta tomorrow which is right next to Tayrona national park which Sarah's says is amazing. We will live a bit cheaper there, possibly in hammocks on the beach for a few nights and work on our tans before flying back to Bogota on the 20th. We will spend the night in Bogota with Sarah's friend's parents which should be a good time considering it will be Colombia's independence day. Then we catch a morning flight to Houston and then on to Vancouver! See everyone in Vancouver soon!

Posted by bforsyth at July 13, 2004 08:45 PM

did you buy the cigars?

Posted by: beth at July 27, 2004 05:58 PM