Monday, November 23, 2009
Hola amigos! back at it on the blog action & I've been at it in full pace for some adventure action. Colombia has so many adventure activities, really as much as one can handle. There is amazons, Andes mountains, volcanoes, Caribbean coast. I have yet to make it very far, I have been in a town called San Gil and haven't been able to get myself to leave. Here the options seem endless. The first big blast I did (on the 21st of Nov) here was a day of white water rafting on what the rafting people classify as "class 5+". What does that really mean? The classes in rafting don't really mean much to me, all I know was that it had some exhilarating rapid sections that were crazier than any previous rafting sections I have done. The last section of the rapids, we hit a huge 3 meter wave and survived through it but then spun around and the next wave which wiped our entire boat out....except for the guide who managed to jump in the boat and hold on. I went under and it seemed like I was down for quite a while, long enough that I had to think about holding my breath and being spun around under water in rough rapids is a little different than the surf. It seemed like their was no buoyancy but eventually I popped up and a kayak was on his way for me to grab a hold & ride out the rapids in the water. I get back to the boat and my new friend, Julienne, is back on and her finger is bent the wrong way in what we think is a dislocation so I get the pleasure of trying to straighten back. I tried & tried but it kept popping back to a malformed state. In the end it turned out that I was yanking on a broken finger, not a dislocated one. Another guy gets back to the raft & he has a bloody nose & teeth. The rest of us were fine. All in and all everyone was still pretty excited about the entire trip, injuries and all. So after that day, the following day I went caving. Three guys & I head up to the this town & go exploring this cavern that ends up being about 80 meters below the surface. There are bats, stalactites, stalagmites and then in the very bottom there is a 5meter high platform where you jump into pitch black water that you can't see. It was really fun. After the cave we went to the central park of this small town to wait for a bus to get us back to San Gil. School was just letting out & the kids started to stand at a distance and stare at us like we were strange aliens. They slowly moved closer & closer to listen to our English. I was the only one who spoke some spanish so I started asking questions & the next thing you know about 30 to 40 of them had the tightest circle around us asking questions, laughing and just staring. It was really fun, quite strange but fun. I spent about 30 mins talking with all the kids, it was pretty fun. The next day a friend & I went on a little journey to track down some natural slides, pools and mini water falls. The spot is called Pescaderito (the 23rd) and it turned out to be a very chill, quite natural spot. I swam, dove, flipped & relaxed my way in the blazing hot sun. The following day, I still couldn't peel myself away from this area, and we went to hike & search for a waterfall spot. This time we found a bigger waterfall, 5 meters high, that had a perfect set up for some jumping & swimming. The next day I decided to sign up to learn something new, I had seen these safety kayakers when we rafted & I have seen them before and though it looked fun so I signed up for a course. I had my own guide the last 2 days and learned to eskimo roll, ride some small waves, approach some currents and do some little tricks. These are the small kayaks that you sit down in and get strapped in at the waist. They're quite lose, probably a similar feeling to when you first sit on a surfboard, I was all over the place and flipping way to quickly. Which meant I had to learn the eskimo roll quickly & I did learn it but it was pretty scary being stuck upside down a few times. After the second day I got a bit better, approached some bigger sections of the river & flipped my way out of disaster a few more times. It was good fun and now I'm really sore. I decided to take the day off today and I think I'm finally going to make my way to Venezuela tomorrow which means I have yet to make it to the Caribbean for my scuba course I want to get into. I'm meeting a friend in Venezuela and then we will travel back up into Colombia. Then I really need to get back to Peru for my car & figure out what I'm doing with myself next. It's been an exciting last month with sand boarding, rock climbing, treking, amazon action, rafting, kayaking, caving...man it seems like a dream really. Well it's time for me to sign off the net. This coming week is a holiday week and I will sorely miss being with my family and friends. I hope everyone has an amazing Thanksgiving!! Saludos
Friday, November 13, 2009
Well here I am again, blogging within a week of the last one. I arrived into Leticia, Colombia after my 40 hour boat ride. I spent a night in Leticia, met some travelers from Sweden & Australia and got talked into walking to Brazil in the rain to go see the discotecs. That was an interesting night filled with men dressed as women and an intro into dealing with Portuguese. It reminds me that if I decide to drive into Brazil that I will be starting over with another language, not so sure about that quite yet as I'm still trying to work on my Spanish. After that night I woke up & decided, well it was decided for me as the hostal was full, that I would go up the Amazon. I was told I could go find a local community and would be welcomed to stay, so long as I brought food. SO I shopped for rice, potatoes, tomatoes, more veggies and even picked up some school supplies. It seemed like I had plenty of food. Little did I know the family I would land with has 7 kids and struggles feeding them on a daily basis. Anyways so I find a boat that will take me a couple of hours up the river & then get dropped off alone. I hike up the muddy bank and find some kids & one of which says that his dad isn't there but they would let me stay with them. The first thing he does as I arrive to their "house" is take my food. I knew they would take the food, the idea was they would take the food & then feed me with them. Now this is a hand made shack & not a craftsman. There is one 10x10 room and come to find out that 10 people live in this room & I'm still not really sure how. The family welcomes me to their house but I feel fairly strange as they're pretty much just staring at me and though I try to engage in conversation, it doesn't go far. I don't think they know how to react to my existence. The little ones are interested but the older ones not so much. I try speaking to the grandma but she doesn't even respond, to which I find out later she doesn't speak spanish just a local dialect. Later that day their dad comes home & he's really nice and actually engages me in conversation. He takes me around the town, tells me how part of the land collapsed into the river and they lost their homes and a few people died. So now they have rebuilt homes away from the river. And then back to the casa where I hang out & set up my hammock outside in their "living room" where I will be sleeping. It's time for dinner, they build a fire and begin to cook & I just kind of sit back and watch. We all eat a bowl of white rice for dinner. I feel bad for eating, they seem so starved, and I feel bad in general like I'm this rich white gringo rubbing it in by being there...it's hard to explain. I guess when I show up with 2 backpacks and it seems like I have more stuff than all 10 of them have in their house it makes you feel bad. Over the 3 days they were there, they hardly fed me. I never saw the food I brought, I got a bowl of rice the first night & a bowl of rice and potatoes the second day for lunch. They ate but certainly weren't concerned with me eating and at the same time I couldn't really care. I had a few snacks in my bag and even a snickers bar but I couldn't dare pull it out, I didn't have enough to share and I certainly would have felt bad. My appetite has been huge lately anyway so a good time to taper it back a bit, something I'm all familiar with from my old wrestling days. Now you think having 7 kids crammed into a room that they'd be fighting all the time, I know my brothers & I scraped plenty in our "small" townhouse, but that wasn't the case at all. The 9 yr old girl watched the baby and her 8 yr old brother helped. The teenage kids cooked the meals, dad was working in the jungle looking for fruits and such and the mom & Grandma hacked down some palm leaves to begin separating them into fibers so they could make necklaces, purses & such. The work the ladies put into making just a bracelet was insane to see, so much labor for one little item that they would in turn sell for 50 cents. There was never a cry or a fight from any kid, other than the baby. I slept on my hammock with a mosquito net while the 10 of them slept in the room, somehow. It was a very interesting experience but by day 3 and no food for me I was ready to leave. I decided to catch up a boat upriver more to another town, one that is a little bigger and has a few hotel like places & a couple of restaurants so I could control my own food destiny. This town is called Puerto Narino, it's a very cool eco friendly village. They happen to be having a day of sports, a decathalon of sorts. With all these kids competing in soccer, volleyball & basketball (which was funny to watch). This was all normal, they were solid soccer players at all ages and not so good at basketball. Then later on in the evening they, of course, had blowdart competitions. I watched 10 yr old girls compete with hand made jungle blow guns shot their hand made darts from nearly half court into a target. They were really good at it too. The next morning I rented a canoe & paddled myself up the Amazon which proved to be really tough as I was heading up current. This didn't last long though I did spot some girl wildlife along the way. After that I caught a boat back to Leticia which is where I am now. I fly from here to Bogota today....now that I think about it flying to Bogota, Colombia on Friday the 13th doesn't sound like the brightest idea. It was really good to have someone from home to share the crazy experiences that come about on this trip and I'm still having them. Off to surely have more as I navigate Colombia over towards the Caribbean coast.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Have you ever sat or laid in a hammock for 40 hours straight?? That is what I just did to get from Peru to Colombia via the amazon river. It might sound relaxing and granted it wasnt stressful but after a while being crammed like sardines with a million local people on their hammocks swinging into mine, I just wanted to get out and exercise or move or something. But as I was told a million times, I had to keep an eye on my things so I didnt really want to go do a titanic flight on the bow of the boat or anything. Right now I am typing this and every letter I type my body reacts like I stair Ive climbed, its 1 billion degrees and I´m sweating like nobody´s business. So since the last bloggio, I had my first visitor from home and who else would pull it off but my adventurous MOM!! We have traveled a bunch in the past and are good travel partners, easy going and low maintenance but this one started off a little slower. First off, mom picked up a cold-flu or something and then I got hit with my kidney stone probs (boo, old story). Add my pain to not being used to traveling "like a tourist" and head with an english speaker to the most touristy place in south america...Cusco. Cusco also brought some altitude sickness our way so along with suffering from other ailments, we were hit with headaches and tiredness. I also was a little snappy because Ive been training to travel "like a local" and not be treated or act like a tourist that doesnt know whats going on and then I started off putting an unrealistic expectation on mom to just be the same as me, which wasnt fair. It was actually a good thing for me to let go and enjoy the gringo trail for a change. It made me look at myself and check my ego. So after a couple of slow days and early nights to bed in Cusco, we started our trek to Machu Picchu. Day one consisted of mountain biking, all down hill, for 4 or 5 hours on constant switch backs that reminded me of the tour de france. It was really fun. At the end of this day we lucked into a "free" couple of hours of white water rafting on classIII/IV river called Rio Urumbamba. The white water rafting was so much fun, constant excitement and the guides were trying to make it fun. They are not worried about insurance liabilities or lawsuits, they are trying to get us out of the boat and tip the boat. Day 2 consisted of us treking on an Inka Messenger trail that huggled along the river with amazing views, tricky steps and lots of heat in the highlands jungle. We even got to cross the river on a cable car which was pretty cool & then we ended the day in some very nice natural hot springs. Day 3 we hiked along railroad track and that is when my kidney stone decided to paralyze me. I wasnt sure if I was going to make it or not but in the end I pushed through, at my own slow pace, and survived in hopes of being good for our day 4, Machu Picchu. Machu Picchu day started at 4am hiking up 1800 stairs, not an easy task really. Then we did our tour around the city and chose to do another sketchy tough climb up a peak called WaynaPicchu. This climb is straight vertical, consists of ropes/cables to help you not fall to your eminate death and even a climb through a cave to get to the top so you get an amazing view of the lost incan city. All in all a pretty amazing trip for us. That night we took the train back to Ollaytatambo and then took a crazy ´collectivo´ back to cusco which got us there late at night only to get up for our early flight the next day. We got to Lima and werent able to get on the flight to the amazon so we spent a day in Lima, sleeping thru the night at 5pm again, and then the next day off to Iquitos. We land in Iquitos in the jungle and the very first distinction is the insane HEAT. It´s like 95 degrees and humido! The sweat begins (and still hasnt stopped). We then land ourselves on a trip 240km downriver to a lodge starting the next day. We have our own guide and have lots of things they say we can see and do there. Our guide is a guy born in the jungle and he is a legit man vs wild guy. He climbed a tree for a sloth so we could hold him, jumped in the water for a caiman for us to hold, cut trees that had the freshest coolest water to drink from its branches and knew every sound and deadly creature to warn us about along the hikes, canoe paddles & boat rides. The one thing I really wanted to see was these alleged pink dolphins. Louis made sure we found them, knew how to lure them towards our boat by playing a game with them and I even managed to snap a few photos. Mom & I swam in the amazon with pink river dolphins, pricess part 1. We went out on adventures a few times a day, saw eagles, hawks, monkeys, toucans, woodpeckers and a billion other birds. Then he took us fishing on this little lagoon. We had our wooden sticks with a string and hook and some chicken meat. The piranhas were biting like crazy. Mom and I both caught about 4 piranhas each within the hour or so, even tossing back some little ones. The piranhas are just as aggressive as you think, they are snapping there teeth at you as you try to get your hook out. We caught them, kept them, fried them, ate them and then kept there teeth as souvenirs, owned!...priceless part 2. So because I am always looking for any solution for my ever nagging, coming and going kidney pains I decided to ask these people about any local natural medicines. So they say sure, there is a Shaman who knows many natural remedies from the jungle and so I say bring him on. The last night, this crazy Shaman arrives to give me a "cleansing". We are going to drink Ayahuasca which I have some sort of idea what might happen, you are going to clean out your body, possibly vomit, and then feel million times better the next day. Uh huh, right. So the ceremony begins with him whistling and then singing in local dialect and some spanish and then we take a shot of some bitter liquid. He is smoking hand rolled tobacco cigs, I am already doubtful of the entire thing but when in rome.... So its dark, I feel nothing other than my seat is shaking because we are on an elevated platform and he is dancing his feet to his whistle. Then the vomiting begins and more and more. And then the hallucinations begin and they are unwelcomed. I´m spinning like I´m on that ride in Kings Dominion (VA people know) that you spin and you stuck to the wall except this ride never ends and I just keep vomitting and when Im not vomiting, I am tripping like someone slipped me an overdose amount of LSD. I mean crazy visions, scary visions (no thanks to the book I happen to be reading), each ex girlfriend from my life flying at me, I am told some evil spirits by this loco shaman and all I keep thinking is, I PAID FOR THIS? Then the other thoughts I keep having is, I want to get up and go to my room but though my mind is going crazy, my body is a limp noodle. At this point I feel like the shaman is a demon and I want to get away but cant. And so eventually I get the attention of a guide who isnt doing this crazy drug and he drags me to my room and I spend the night awake staring into what I thought was outer space, aka my ceiling. And so do I feel great the next day you ask? uhm NO, I feel the opposite of great for the next 2 days...exhausted, weak, slightly still hallucinating and still wondering why anyone would ever suggest that as a "healthly cleansing". So yea, that was an experience I wont be doing again. Are my kidney stones gone you ask, I dont know but I dont that had anything to do with my kidney stones and more to do with my "evil spirits." So anyways, that was that and the next day we returned to Iquitos and got to visit a crazy local market which had unheard of things going on from a US standard which was the last crazy experience for mom before she flew back to Lima and then the states. It was really good for me to have someone with me from home, especially my mom. I hope someone else makes it for a visit!!! Now I am in Colombia and I am trying to figure out what else I can do in the Jungle before heading towards the caribean coast. Hope all is well on the homefront, stay away from Ayahuasca! Saludos!!! (pictures later when I have internet with my laptop)