Trip Start Mar 01, 2011
12Trip End Jun 12, 2011
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We departed from beautiful Isabela Island on a 6.00am ferry. Apparently due to the full moon the night before the Pacific Ocean was well rough and my poor belly felt the brunt of it, not once, not twice but 7 times on the 2 hour journey :(
We arrived into Quito, did some sightseeing, tried not to get ripped off by cabbies on more than one occasion and won, and changed our itinerary again, putting the Amazon on hold in favour of a trip to Colombia! We left on an 8.00am bus to cross the border in daylight as per the Lonely Planet's advice. Thankfully everything went smoothly. At DAS (Administrative Department of Security AKA immigration) we were electronically fingerprinted before our passports stamped then headed to Cali on an overnight bus
We got out of the cab and this is where I broke it to him, he wouldn't be getting the fare on the meter. With the guy from the hostel and a fellow cabbie to back us up, we succeeded to win again! Suck shit, that's what you get for wasting my precious beauty sleep, lol!
We stayed in Cali for a night and in that time managed to hear about some gringos in our hostel being mugged the night before, some by gunpoint
This is one place where we can say the Lonely Planet got it right. Every street in the Old Town was as picturesque as a postcard. It really had the whole Caribbean charm to it with cobbled street filled with vendors selling all sorts from sun hats, tropical fruit or brewed coffee to massages on the beach, (which I could not resist), ahhh! We stayed a couple of nights (where the temperature doesn't drop below 25 in the evening) before heading to a beach on an Island 20km away, Playa Blanca.
As we missed the last ferry out (8.30am), we had to take the longer but more economical way to the Island, bus, ferry, moto(bike)taxi. It was a real eye opener though. It really showed what we were yet to see in Colombia and probably the worse we'd seen in all of South America, poverty and lots of it. People dressed in rags rummaging through piles of rubbish on the river bank with a stench that made our stomachs churn and all this just a stones throw away from touristy Cartagena. The bus took an hour and thankfully it wasn't like that the whole way. The ferry was brief (5 mins) and the mototaxi was fun although it was a bit like 'The Long Way Round' with Ewan McGregor at times, lol
There was no electricity or running water at Playa Blanca just hammocks, tents and cabins to sleep in and the beach at your doorstep. We went for luxury, cabins :) Reed roofed with no locks on the doors or windows, (we left our backpacks and passports in Cartagena) and the floor was sand, we got the occasional visit from the locals (crabs) passing through, hehe. The seafood, as you can imagine was delicious and cheap. I ate a bakers dozen of oysters freshly shucked on the beach for a whole (US$1.50), washed down with Pina Coladas made with coconut water and served in the coconut. With our time running out, and a 5 hour bus ride to our next destination, we only stayed 2 full days and 1 night before heading back to Cartagena for one more night before making our way to Taganga.
Taganga is a small fishing village, quite touristy and also on the Caribbean Coast east of Cartagena. Here we caught up with some friends we'd met along the way. It was nice to exchange travel stories and hear about what they'd been up to over some beers. Our time here was spent mostly on the beach, catching our last rays before we head back down to Ecuador. We visited Tayrona National Park, which is on the beach and very beautiful although we didn't get to see the best of it.
Thursday we flew to Cali out of Santa Marta airport which is literally on the beach, surrounded by mango and coconut trees. At the airport we had a deliciously refreshing drink 'limonada de coco' (coconut lemonade) it was soooo tasty and like nothing we'd had before, yum! From Cali we caught an overnight bus down to Otavalo, Ecuador for the largest craft market in South America. We will miss the lovely (free in the hostel) Colombian coffee, food and heat :( But it was time to move on....
We arrived into Otavalo in the late afternoon, we were quite exhausted from the journey so we just had a bite to each and crashed preparing ourselves for loads of haggling the following day.
We awoke quite early, 6.45am, to get to the market before the hordes of tourists arrived and to get the best deals. The market was very colourful and full of mostly handmade crafts. There was hammocks, rugs, blankets, jumpers, socks, gloves, scarves, jewellery, paintings etc... We managed to get some great bargains especially on silver :) We shopped around for about 3 hours before checking out and getting a bus to Quito once again, this time jungle bound!
PS apologies for all the swearing but I wanted to express how fucked off I was :)