A Travellerspoint blog

Ecuador

guinea pig for lunch anyone?

semi-overcast 15 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

If you ever want a culture shock spend some time in Central America and then pop over to Ecuador. Organised, clean, beautiful, did I say organised? Food disagreed with me for a day or so but since I have been doing next to nothing apart from mosying around then what do I care. Headed South as soon as I landed and this is a truly beautiful place. Valleys, streams, waterfalls, stunning. Only downside is that it is bloody freezing. I think it was about 22 or 23 in quito but when I got to Riobamba is was about 12. I only brought a light jacket. Almost caved in and bought one of those weaved numbers but figured I would rather freeze than live with the shame. I subsequently froze.

In the spirit of handing out some helpful advice to you, my dear reader(s), if you are planning to come to Ecuador (and you really should) then it would appear that the correct attire is entirely purchasable from a millets/patagonia/north face distributor near you. At each and every moment of each and every day you must be sufficiently equipped to scale the north face of the Eiger at the drop of a triple lined fleece hat. Nevermind that all you actually plan to do is to drink coffee and be driven (in your heated van) to the next waterfall you must be better equipped than special forces dropping into Northern Afghanistan. I saw one bloke who had enough of those coloured mountain climbing clip things to securely fasten a busload of ballet dancers to... well... to whatever, thats not the point. He didn't have any ropes and was having a leisurely cafe con leche (probably skimmed) and a slice of cake at the time. Tosser. Bit harsh but you wanted the truth, now you have to handle it. There are a large number of people who actually do hike. You can spot them though - they have mud on them and look knackered they are not looking replete with some cake crumbs on their fleece and wool reversible pullover. Remember - just beacuse you dress like Tina Turner it doesnt make you Tina Turner - and that advice is for everyone not just for members of my immediate family. Moving on.

So what else is news. Well I went to Banos and hung out for 24 hours. Hired a bike and took a recommended route through the moutains to see some waterfalls. I got there and almost had a heart attack. When I got back and asked the dude how high we were he said about 2000m. Ecuador is very elevated it turns out. Apart from the Western edges so they tell me. Waterfall for you - since I did risk serious injury to see it.

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That was fun but the next day I took one of only 2 working trains left in Ecuador. It "works" Wed, Fri and Sun. Working in this respect means that it followed the contours of the earth for 2 hours when they had to stop the train for an hour while some blokes with large heavy instruments and what appeared to be limited railway engineering experience whacked the rails back and forth. Trip continued. Didn't mind though - highly high up, bit chilly but recommended.

At this point I will start using a star system. 1-5 with 1/4 point increments should do it. nariz del diablo - 3.5 stars. Which is good as I am normally a bit of a miserable bastard (for those of you new to this blog) especially at 7 am when this happens.

I cannot sufficiently explain my contempt for this particular genre of enetertainment. Fair does this guy is a local and it is a traditional instrument and I certainly do nto balame him but it has been forever ruined by the multitude of crap pan pipes cd's avaialbale. I am not quite sure what hell will be like when I do get there (hope it has a bar) but one thing I can virtually guarantee is that Elvis will be on heavy radio rotation and every elevator and public space will be playing famous 70's and 80's hits remodelled as pan-pipes shite. Apologies to those of you who like it but you have no taste. Download Beggars Banquet by the Stones and tell me I am wrong. In any case, I digress.

Apart from the above rather enjoyable rant all is going swimmingly well. I had a migraine the other day and went to a pharmacy where I was able to buy prescription migraine medication at cut price rates. I did ask and xanex, prozac and any other number of "not available over the counter" pills are indeed available over the counter. Cool. Its nice to be a place where the goverment appears to trust the people not to go crazy and only ask the pharmacist for what they actually need in the way of medication. This is of course rather than taking anything and everything in order to numb the pain resulting from the last batch of meds waring off. Anyway, enough for now, the bloke in the internet cafe has just sprouted 2 more legs and a fish's head. Better get on my surf board made of cheese and escape. scurgle, burgle blumph flh.

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Posted by lidster 15:52 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Panama and out.

sunny 30 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

So that was Central America. Looking back over the blog pages I have posted in the last 2 months and a bit I don't really get the impression that I conveyed a great deal of information, been to that many places or provided any real useful advice should you ever visit these countries yourself. I suppose if you want the definitive version buy a book on it. The only advice I would give is that you should get here at some point, if you want my highlights then send em an email.

That said I will try to get a few more facts into the mix for South America. Just to finish Paman off.

Panama City is a bit of a shithole. If you stay in the fancy hotels in the banking area then I am sure it is quite nice but if you are looking in the 7-12 USD bracket you get asked if you want the room by the hour or the night. I went out to find something to eat and was accosted by this old bloke who informed me that demons walk the earth and that Oliver Cromwell was Jewish and that so is Gordon Brown and probably Bush too. Weirdo. Tried to leave politely a few times but he was starting to look like Mel Gibson after a few drinks and you have to be careful who you associate with so I walked off. The second person - only 20 yards later - was apparently a semi professional boxer (and he looked like it) who had a very large scar on his neck that gave the impression someone had attempted to remove his head with a machete. He advised me that the streets I was walking were dangerous and could he have 5 bucks for the doctor to remove the stitches and for the cash he would also walk me home safe. Being within site of my hotel I gave him the money and had an early night listening to furious love making. Panama City during the day is ok - but my advice is to skip it.

Back to the big picture. Central America was really cool. Didn't like Costa Rica (although we had fun there) but the rest was great. Guatemala and Honduras both stunningly beautiful, incredibly cheap and a lot less dangerous than I was led to believe. We only stayed a few days in Nicaragua but had a very positive impression of it. The people are in the main really friendly (might have mentioned that) - although its also that they also have a strong sense of community as they have to rely upon their family, neighbours and strangers in the street far more than we would. And skip the capitals. Hit the road.

It is hard to describe quite how much is crammed into such a small space. Distances would normally be inconsequential but 40 km can mean 4 hours on a rollercoaster with no seatbelts. Mountains, volcanoes, sea on both sides, more wildlife than you can shake a stick at (believed me I tried), food is occasionally a bit heavy (not sure what the life expectancy is in the carib but a lot of fried chicken and plantain gets tucked away). All in I had a lot of fun. Met some very cool people, some complete freaks of course but mostly refreshingly cool. So as I leave this strip of land and move to a significantly larger one I wish them all the best. If they were holidaying, living, working or just passing through may all their problems be small and all their beverages be correctly chilled.

South America here I come. Wish me luck.

(pictures whenever - I only had a couple of lines of boats in the distance coming out of the canal anyway)

Posted by lidster 10:29 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

Panama

Well, Bocas del Torra

sunny 30 °C
View South America - out of Sorts on lidster's travel map.

Bocas is funky, relaxed, friendly and full of heavy drinkers. Apparently sex tourism is rife globally but it will surely never outstrip booze tourism. Truly amazing how many people find getting hammered more agreeable close to a beach. it is also quite suprising, to those of a more sheltered upbringing, what said drunkards will do once drunk. I pointed my camera at one and she inexplicably did this.

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Nutter.

Geev and I have been mosying about the place. Town is ok but the main attraction are the beaches. All a water taxi (and occasionally a walk) away but probably all the better for that. We tried to get to a place called Wizard beach. Signpost below:

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And walked straight past this sign and into the jungle. Got completely lost, saw an alligator, got stuck in knee deep swamps and never did get to the beach.

I know I mentioned the bus ride in the last entry. I also realise that me moaning on about buses is pretty boring but I did want to post this video of young Geev trying to drink a warm beverage on the bus. I thought it funny.

Small things and small minds. And Geev is quite small.

Am off to somewhere else tomorrow. Not sure where but will be sure to inform you about the quality and comfort of any public transport journeys I should take. Geev flies to San Jose manana and will be back in the first world Sunday. Adios amigo. Thanks for coming and thanks for waking me up last night by slapping me in the face repeatedly. Most refreshing. Happy trails.

later
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Posted by lidster 14:36 Archived in Panama Comments (1)

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