> wanderlust > Skip en Sudamérica - Part 3
en Sudamérica - Part 2
de la Inmaculada, Cuenca, Ecuador
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I sleep as well
as can be expected in the night buses but frequently experience an unpleasant
early morning wake up when the bus arrives at the destination in the
dark, an hour or two earlier than is convenient.
Typically, we arrived at Trujillo at about 5 am but by nine had found
a place to stay, breakfasted and made our way to the Huacas del Sol
y de la Luna ruins, a few kilometres out of town. These large temples
constructed from mud bricks were quite different from the stone ruins
I'd seen elsewhere and at about 1,400 years old were built well before
the Inca Empire rose to prominence. That a mud brick construction survived
so long gives some indication of the low rainfall but they are well
eroded never the less. What made the temples interesting was the way
in which the older layers of temple had been buried and thus preserved
beneath the newer layers. Teams of archaeologists have done some elaborate
work unearthing these older layers and have revealed some beautiful
and amazingly well preserved painted walls from beneath the layers of
mud bricks. Later that day we visited Chan Chan, an ancient city completely
of mud brick construction. It's impressive in its extent but all of
it has been badly eroded and there's little more to see than mud walls
with some restored detail.
On yet another bus we headed further north to Piura, close to Perú's
border with Ecuador. On our arrival there in the evening we found there
was a night bus to the Ecuadorian border and further on to Loja in Ecuador.
It seemed kind of weird that the border would be open in the middle
of the night but both Steve and I were both keen to get to Ecuador and
and bought our tickets for the 10 pm bus. While waiting for the bus
we wandered into the city and had our last fix of Peruvian cerviche
(raw seafood), lomo saltado (stir fried beef and vegetables with rice)
and cerveza (you know what that is).
Later on in the
bus I was (again) rudely awoken when we reached the border at about
1 am and wandered in a daze through the immigration formalities before
continuing in the bus to Loja. Entering a new country is always exciting
but after the desolate landscape of Peru, the lush green hills of southern
Ecuador were a particularly pleasant surprise. Loja turned out to be
a cute little town set amongst these green hills and after wandering
through the deserted streets of early Saturday morning we came upon
the money machines.
To find a friendly money machine that relinquishes its cash after appropriate
prodding is a never ending source of gratification. This we did and
received a fat wad of US$5 notes for our troubles. The money in Ecuador
is particularly goofy. The currency, the sucre, had been dramatically
devalued in the recent past and seemed to be fixed at a rate of US$1
to 25,000 sucres. On September 13th 2000, sucres would be replaced by
US dollars and cease to exist but at this time, everybody was using
a combination of dollars and sucres. You would frequently receive change
in a combination of notes in tens of thousands of sucres with US coinage.
It's confusing but hey, you pay about 25,000 sucres for a meal and with
US$50 you're a millionaire!
We didn't stop in Loja but continued on to Vilcabamba where we stayed
at a cool place called Madre Tierra. Here they offered spas, jacuzis,
saunas, massages and all sorts of other treatments but for some bizarre
reason I chose to go horse riding. After my experience in the Pantanal
where I decided horses definitely weren't for me I was a little anxious
about it but for whatever reason, this was a much more pleasant experience.
We plodded, trotted and galloped for about three hours along tracks
around the hills surrounding Vilcabamba and at top speed it almost felt
good. We approached the edge of the Parque Nacional Podocarpus named
after its trees but saw only a few small Podocarpus specimens. New Zealand
has relatives of these trees and it was interesting to compare them
- one species looked a bit like our kauri, another looked a lot like
miro. That evening we watched a Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid video
and saw how horses are supposed to be ridden. The video was interesting
because it includes the end of their careers in Bolivia where they were
finally gunned down near the town of Tupiza in 1908.
After two nights in Vilcabamba we moved on to Cuenca, Ecuador's third
largest and prettiest city. On our first day there Steve and I made
enquiries about flights and tours to the Galápagos Islands. July and
August are the peak season and everything is heavily booked. Partly
in order to get a flight out there more quickly, we booked a four day
boat tour leaving in about six days time with a return flight 3 days
after completion of the boat tour to give us some additional time on
the islands. Unlike mainland Ecuador, the Galápagos are very expensive
to visit and our time there would cost US$1,000 or more. This is a major
investment but everybody had told me it's very cool and I was looking
forward to it very much.
Having made the decision to go to the Galápagos meant I had virtually
no chance of having sufficient time to get to Caracas overland and would
almost certainly have to fly the last bit. After a couple more days
in Cuenca, Steve headed for Quito and I headed for Baños with an arrangement
to meet several days later in Guayaquil for the flight to the Galápagos.
Baños is a touristy little town set in a lush green valley. It's main
claim to fame was a nearby active volcano which threatened to have the
town evacuated but it seemed reasonably quiet at the time of my visit
and there were so many clouds around that I hardly saw it. On my first
day in Baños the weather was reasonable but still cloudy for most of
the day. I walked up tracks into the hills on both sides of the valley
and although the nearby volcano was partially visible, clouds obscured
the top of it. I don't think it was doing much but photos in shop windows
around town showed it spurting lava in spectacular fashion. The next
day I might have a hired a mountain bike but it rained constantly and
I did little except dine on cuy (guinea pig), read, and got my diary
up to date.
I had a day to spare before the flight to the Galápagos and although
Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city, has a reputation as being ugly and
dangerous, it beckoned me somehow and by the following afternoon I was
there. The change in climate from Baños at 1,800 metres to Guayaquil
at sea level was dramatic and gave me the warmest weather I'd yet experienced
on the continent. The road approaching Guayaquil was lined with banana
plantations, each tree heavily laden with one big bunch, most bunches
shrouded in a plastic bag.
In the tropical heat and sunshine Guayaquil seemed not so bad. After
finding a hotel near the city centre I wandered out on a Sunday afternoon
looking for somewhere to eat and almost immediately bumped into three
old friends from Bolivia and Perú - Gavin, Barry and Leah. We had to
search hard to find an open restaurant with beer but ended up having
a good afternoon stuffing ourselves and catching up. Wandering back
through the dimly lit back streets of Guayaquil by myself at night didn't
give me a warm, cozy feeling but did save me a dollar for a taxi.
The next day, Gavin and I spent some time wandering about town. Although
I had quite some difficulty getting money and things I wanted to buy,
the sun blazed down from a blue sky and made the place feel a lot like
Rio. Down on the waterfront they must have spent millions creating a
swanky promenade which any city would be proud of and which they could
probably ill afford. Gavin and I went looking for a swimming pool but
when we found it, decided we didn't really want a swim and then got
a bit nervous about the quality of the neighbourhood we were in. Many
of the locals seemed to be carrying steel bars and those without bars
tended to be carrying shotguns. You see a lot of weapons in the street.
Every shop has an armed guard outside and you get used to seeing all
sorts of people with guns.
Late that night Steve arrived at the hotel and we arranged to wake each
other early the following morning for our flight to the Galápagos. As
could have been expected, the flight was delayed but by midday the next
day we'd touched down in the Galápagos and were mighty pleased to be
there. Located in the Pacific about 1,000 kilometres from the Ecuadorian
mainland, right on the equator, the Galápagos Islands are famous for
their wildlife. The history of the islands, particularly Charles Darwin's
visit and associated theories on evolution and natural selection, the
fearless and unique wildlife, the geographic isolation and cost of visiting
the place make it seem pretty special.
On arrival we were soon transported to our boat and in the afternoon
began our four day, three night cruise around the islands. There are
at least a dozen major islands, some quite large, and our tour would
take us to just a few sites on four of the islands. The Galápagos Islands
comprise a large national park and visits by tourists to the islands
are restricted to roughly 50 visitor sites. We were to visit just six
of these sites.
Steve and I were a bit nervous about the quality of the tour we'd booked
but were pleasantly surprised by the luxuriousness of the boat, the
Galápagos Explorer II. She was a big steel vessel and we shared a cozy
double cabin with ensuite bathroom. At our first visitor site, Las Bachas
on Isla Santa Cruz, we were ferried ashore in a dinghy to a beautiful
white sandy beach. There, pelicans flew low over our heads and numerous
other sea birds filled the sky. Marine iguanas, the world's only sea
going lizard, lay about on the sand and rocks and allowed us to poke
our cameras within inches of them. Just back off the beach in a small
lagoon we approached a group of greater flamingos and watched them feeding
at close range for quite some time. Back on the beach, ghost crabs danced
across the sand and bright red Sally Lightfoot crabs covered the rocks.
After viewing the wildlife we donned masks and snorkels and swam around
the rocks off the beach. The underwater visibility was reasonable, not
exceptional, but there plenty of fish around and it was all very new
and interesting for me. The water temperature at the Galápagos varies
widely but is at a minimum in August and conditions were a little too
chilly to snorkel for more than 15 or 20 minutes without a wetsuit.
Compared to other tropical locations, the Galápagos doesn't look very
tropical underwater. Although there's no large sea weeds, there's no
well developed coral reefs either and the rocks underwater tend to look
a little barren.
In the evening we
dined while anchored in sheltered waters around Isla Santa Cruz and
later upped anchor to motor through the night to Isla Española, the
southernmost island in the group. At dawn the following day the island
was still not within sight as we rolled on the lumpy ocean swells beneath
a bleak, grey sky. Later that morning we landed at Punta Suárez on the
western end of Isla Española. Galápagos sea lions slouched about on
the rocks at the landing point and covered the nearby white, sandy beach.
Marine iguanas, these ones tinged with red and green lay in heaps nearby
and mocking birds flitted amongst the rocks. All animals allowed us
to approach with inches of them. Moving away from the beach on a marked
track we were straight into a colony of blue footed boobies, perhaps
the most comical and endearing bird on the islands. With every footstep
we had to tread carefully for fear of standing on birds or lizards.
Several of these animals got a real close look at my camera. Further
along the track the blue footed boobies were joined by masked boobies.
Here the big swells crashed into the southern side of the island, sea
lions frolicked in rock pools and marine iguanas lay about everywhere.
Moving inland a bit we came upon pairs of waved albatrosses performing
a bizarre and very humorous courtship ritual. This was something I could
have watched for hours, smiling and chuckling to myself the whole time.
The only albatross occurring entirely within the tropics, almost the
entire world population nests on Española with just a few pairs on Isla
de la Plata off the Ecuadorian mainland. Heading back to the beach,
I watched a small snake slither between the rocks and once back at the
beach, spent a few more fun filled minutes wandering amongst the sea
Our afternoon visit
was to Bahía Gardner on the eastern end of Española's north coast. The
fine, white sandy beach was beautiful and made all the more pretty by
groups of sea lions basking alongside us. I wasted no time in getting
into the water with mask and snorkel and swam out to a group of rocks
perhaps 100 metres off the beach. With underwater visibility at about
12 metres there were plenty of fish to watch including large-banded
blennies, about ten times bigger than the tiny blennies we have in New
Zealand, schools of yellow tailed surgeonfish, sergeant majors, king
angelfish, several species of butterflyfish, and numerous others.
Late in the
afternoon we departed Española and motored to Isla San Cristóbal where
we paused to have dinner in sheltered waters before continuing on through
the night to Isla Santa Fe. Like much of the weather we'd experienced
in the Galápagos, the day dawned overcast and a bit gloomy at Santa
Fe. Again, there were plenty of sea lions blobbed out on the beach where
we landed but we wasted little time in heading off on the track in search
of land iguanas. These lizards are quite distinct from the marine iguanas
which seem to occur almost everywhere around the Galápagos and occur
on only some of the islands. The land iguanas on Santa Fe are particularly
special because they comprise a unique species which occurs on none
of the other islands. When we found them, they, like so many of the
other Galápagos animals seemed almost oblivious to our close attentions
as they lazed on rocks amongst the forest of prickly pear cactus trees.
After being ferried
back to our boat we jumped in for another snorkel during which I saw
stingrays, a white tipped reef shark and watched a large bull sea lion
swim acrobatically around me. Our visit that afternoon was to South
Plaza (Isla Plaza Sur) just off the eastern coast of Isla Santa Cruz.
Yet more sea lions crowded the landing spot alongside another species
of land iguana different from the one we'd seen earlier in the day at
Santa Fe. A picturesque track took us along the exposed southern coast
of South Plaza where swallow-tailed gulls nested on the cliff edge and
a colony of bachelor sea lions had somehow hauled themselves way out
of the water. These males are those unable to gain a harem of their
own and seem to congregate together in difficulty accessible places
building their strength in preparation to challenge another male with
a harem or perhaps just sulking about what losers they are.
afternoon we arrived in Puerto Ayora, the largest settlement on the
Galápagos where we were quickly ferried ashore and then to the Charles
Darwin Research Station. At this centre for research and conservation
activities on the islands we visited an interpretation centre and then
went on to look at giant tortoises of various sizes and races. At the
Darwin Station much work has gone into the breeding and rearing tortoises
and repatriating them to their native islands when they are old enough
to avoid predation by the rats, cats, dogs and pigs which still occur
on many of the islands. The very young tortoises are about three inches
long and at the age of four or five have reached perhaps eight inches
at which time they are ready for release into the wild.
Although all the
Galápagos tortoises are grouped as a common species, the animals from
the various islands are differentiated, particularly by shell shape
and classified as separate races or subspecies. Of the 14 races which
originally existed only ten viable races still exist due to hunting
by man or predation by the introduced mammals. A good news story concerns
the tortoises of Española, at one time reduced to a population of 14
individuals but now numbering many hundreds thanks to a captive breeding
and rearing program at the Darwin Station. A sadder story is that of
Lonesome George, the only known remaining individual from Isla Pinta.
George now lives at the Darwin Station where I saw him in an enclosure
with two closely related females from a nearby island. George apparently
seems disinterested in these females and although the search for other
Pinta tortoises continues on the island and in zoos around the world,
the likely tragedy is that George is the last of his race. In one enclosure
you are free to wander amongst the giants and get close and personal
with them. Watching these big animals, some over 250 kg, creep about
in semi-natural surroundings and munch on their food is pretty cool.
We slept on the
boat anchored in Puerto Ayora for the last night of our Galápagos tour
and disembarked early the following morning. After finding some accommodation,
Steve and I spent the day checking out scuba diving possibilities, revisiting
the Darwin Station and walking to the nearby beach, Bahía Tortuga. There
are several diving operations in Puerto Ayora - we elected to go with
Sub-Aqua and booked on a two dive trip the following day. Our second
visit to the Darwin Station was well worthwhile as we'd been there late
in the afternoon the previous day and the tortoises seem to be much
more active during the heat of the day. We got a much better look at
the baby tortoises and had more time to spend with the big ones, some
of whom were busy feeding.
The beach, about
a 50 minute walk from town was quite pretty and I spent a while there
watching pelicans diving for fish close to shore. The following day's
diving started early with a 50 minute drive from Puerto Ayora to the
north side of the island (Santa Cruz). There we boarded a fairly decent
boat with about seven other divers and motored for an hour or so to
our dive site at Gordon Rocks. This is supposedly one of the better,
more challenging readily accessible dive sites in the Galápagos. The
rocks, an eroded rim of a volcanic cone are some distance off shore.
Here, the sea was a little sloppy and there was predicted to be some
At about 12 metres, the visibility wasn't wonderful but was quite sufficient
to get a good look around. In the turbulent water where we started the
dive we were immediately surrounded by a large school of jacks. Swimming
along the reef of what was once the inside of the volcano's cone there
were plenty of fish but as with the snorkeling I'd done, the rocks were
a little barren. The Galápagos are primarily a place to see big animals;
sharks, rays, turtles, sea lions, dolphins, large fish and are particularly
well known for their hammerhead sharks. It was the hammerheads that
I really wanted to see and after 20 minutes or so, we saw our first
one, its distinctive shape silhouetted well above us. A few minutes
later, I saw several more large individuals, perhaps 3 1/2 metres long
swimming along side and below us. These were probably the largest sharks
I'd seen underwater but they're not dangerous and fear isn't a thought
that enters your head - it's just great to see such magnificent animals
in their domain.
Baby Giant Tortoises, Charles Darwin Research Station, Puerto Ayora,
Islas Galápagos, Ecuador
Later in the dive
when the other divers had run low on air and surfaced, I drifted in
blue water for a while with the Kiwi divemaster, Aaron. At one point,
a group of six or eight hammerheads swam past us. If only the visibility
had been better, I'm sure a much larger school would have been visible.
Our second dive that day was to have been at North Seymour but the visibility
there had been poor the previous day and we decided to dive again at
Gordon Rocks. This time, we started the dive drifting along the outside
of the rocks where the walls plummet to 80 metres or more. After a while
we reached a gap between the rocks and hauled ourselves against the
current into the cone where huge schools of fish filled the water column.
In this area, I saw three hammerheads materialise out of the greeny-blue
and right at the end of the dive, Galápagos sharks cruised past us on
The following day I decided to go diving again. This time, our boat
ride to our first dive site, Cousin Rock near Isla Bartolomé, took about
an hour and a half. This dive was a little more subdued than those of
the previous day with almost no current. With the sun shining brightly,
conditions underwater were very pleasant and the reef looked a little
prettier than those of the day before. Early on in the dive we followed
a large school of spotted eagle rays (I counted 32). As on every dive
I did, we saw several green turtles, some swimming in mid-water and
some lying at rest on the reef. At one point, we were surrounded by
a school of barracuda and towards the end of the dive had many sea lions
frolicking around us making our movements underwater seem incredibly
cumbersome in comparison.
Between dives we
anchored beneath the picturesque and much photographed pinnacle at Bartolomé.
The second dive that day around Bartolomé wasn't quite as good as the
first but was still very enjoyable. On the trip back, we watched many
bottle nosed dolphins swim with the boat and later saw large manta rays
just beneath the surface, their wing tips seven or eight feet apart
often appearing above the water.
So ended my brief taste of Galápagos diving. Although the diving was
good, there is much better diving to be experienced. From December to
March the visibility is considerably better and those with a ton of
money (US$2,000 - 3,000) go on eight or ten day liveaboard charters
to the small, distant islands of Darwin and Wolf. Here, the schools
of hammerheads may number several hundred and apart from many other
sharks, you have a good chance of seeing giant manta rays, schools of
large tuna and whale sharks.
Steve hadn't been diving with me that day but we met up in the evening
and went out to a restaurant for dinner. Half way through our meal Steve
said he wasn't feeling well and was going back to the hotel. A minute
later, others in the restaurant attracted my attention saying my friend
had fallen outside. I found Steve lying unconscious on the footpath
outside the restaurant with blood on his face and breathing irregularly.
At times he seemed not to be breathing at all but slapping of his face
seemed to make him breathe more normally. With a group of others, we
hauled him into the back of a utility and headed off to the local hospital.
There he started to regain consciousness but was still very groggy.
I was given a shopping list of drugs, syringes, needles etc. and went
off to the pharmacy to purchase these.
When I got back to the hospital they had Steve hooked up to a drip and
were stuffing much wadding up his nose in an attempt to stop the constant
trickle of blood from his nostrils. I stayed with Steve for about three
hours during which time he was reasonably conscious but rather incoherent
asking me the same questions many times. I went back to the hospital
at 7.30 the following morning to find Steve awake but looking not too
good with a black eye and swollen face splattered with dried blood.
He remembered almost nothing from the night before and complained of
a very sore head. Communication with hospital staff in Spanish only
was very difficult but I gathered they wanted to x-ray Steve's head
and advised us to come back later in the morning. This we did and after
having the x-ray, spent a while gazing at the picture speculating as
to whether anything looked irregular. Eventually, a woman who spoke
a tiny bit of English showed up, pronounced there was nothing seriously
wrong with Steve's head and sent us off with a prescription for Voltaren
(pain killer) and some eye ointment.
For the next day and a half I nursed a fairly sick Steve who spent a
lot of time sleeping. In between, I visited the Darwin Station again
and shopped for a few souvenirs. We were to have visited the highlands
of Santa Cruz on our last day in the Galápagos to see the lava tubes
and giant tortoises in a more wild setting but Steve's illness prevented
this. The following day, Steve was still feeling pretty bad but we got
up early, caught the bus to the airport, and by midmorning were on our
flight back to Guayaquil on the mainland. That evening in Guayaquil,
Steve's lack of improvement and minimal consumption of food and drink
(despite my best efforts) were becoming a bit of a concern. Having fallen
badly on my face before, I remembered the period of my sickness and
thought that by the following morning he must be starting to feel a
little better. Fortunately, this he did and seemed well enough for us
to catch a bus to Montañita on the coast about three hours from Guayaquil.
Steve's head continued to ache for many days but he was fairly obviously
on the road to recovery.
Montañita is a very small, dusty seaside town with supposedly the best
surf in Ecuador. The surf wasn't any good while we were there but with
the tide out, the beach was a pleasant walk and there were some interesting
rocks and rock pools at the northern end. We spent three nights in Montañita,
half waiting to meet up with Gavin whose mask and snorkel I'd borrowed
to take to the Galápagos. We then traveled for a day up the coast to
Puerto Lopez where we booked a day tour out to the Isla de la Plata,
some 40 km northwest out to sea from Puerto Lopez. Isla de la Plata,
sometimes referred to a the poor man's Galápagos is part of a national
park and has plenty of bird life to see.
Between June and
October there's also a lot of humpback whales in the area which attract
quite a few tourists. The day we went out wasn't wonderful, the sea
a little sloppy and the boat a little wet but within 20 minutes of leaving
Puerto Lopez, we saw a pair of humpbacks, just the top of their backs
and funny little dorsal fins arching above the waves. Further on into
the boat trip we saw many more humpbacks performing just about their
full range of tricks. We watched their heads pop up, the raising of
their huge pectoral fins above the water and then slapping down on the
surface, and best of all, many breaches where the huge animals propelled
themselves out of the water and landed with an enormous splash. I hope
I got some reasonable photos of them but with not knowing where or when
they're going to appear, it is rather difficult. In the best breach
we saw, the whale was almost completely out of the water side on to
us and rolled 90 degrees so the brilliant white of the underbelly and
pectoral fins showed. This was perhaps 50 metres from our boat and you
guessed it, dull boot missed the shot!
At Isla de la Plata we went on a three hour walk during which we saw
plenty of birds nesting including blue footed boobies, masked boobies
and those few waved albatrosses that nest elsewhere than on Isla Española
in the Galápagos. It was pretty nice and would be a bird watchers' paradise
by any standards but it just seemed a bit like a watered down Galápagos
and I didn't bother taking any photos because I'd already seen and snapped
The next day we headed north to Manta, a much larger city on the coast.
I'd planned to stay there a couple of nights but the place just looked
like an ugly city so the next day I farewelled Steve who had to head
back to Guayaquil for a flight to Santiago and jumped on a bus to Quito.
The nine hour ride wasn't pleasant but would hopefully be the last long
bus journey of my South American experience.
The place I found to stay in Quito's new town that evening had a very
nice feel to it and with plenty of internet places and restaurants nearby,
I took an immediate liking to Quito. With the end of my South American
travels drawing near, my top priority was to purchase a flight from
Quito to Caracas from where my flight to London would leave. It was
rather depressing to have to shell out US$330 for this but with the
limited time I had left, I could see no other option. After relaxing
in Quito for a few days I headed north on a bus for about 2 1/2 hours
to Otavalo, a town famous for its markets. There, the variety of stuff
for sale was bewildering but I didn't buy a whole lot. Some other Gringos,
particularly Israelis, seem to buy sacks full of stuff but I just struggle
with the usefulness of most of the classic souvenirs and crafts and
can't see any point in buying stuff which will probably sit in a cupboard
when I get home.
OK, a little bit about the Israelis: A South American travelogue would
hardly be complete without mention of them. They are certainly the most
well represented nationality amongst travelers and on a per capita basis
would far exceed any other. To quote a Danish couple, "they're like
a plague". You can't go anywhere without seeing them, you often see
signs in Hebrew, get Hebrew keyboards in internet cafés, and occasionally
get greeted by locals with a "shalom". From what I've learned, the Israeli
traveler typically finishes school, does two or three years compulsory
military service and often then works for a short period before heading
off. South America seems to be a popular destination for them - many
start in Brazil at carnival time and from there the plague spreads;
southwest to Bolivia, then north to Perú and Ecuador. Israelis tend
to travel in raucous packs and get many things cheaper than other travelers
do. They haggle over a 20 cent nonnegotiable bus terminal tax the way
I might have done ten years ago and probably live for half what I do.
These days I could boast about how much I tip sometimes if only I could
find someone to listen. The few older Israelis are quieter and more
solitary. The youthful majority seem to have gone crazy on their release
from the army. They're not the most wonderful ambassadors for their
country but I'm sure they don't give a shit - they're too busy having
a good time.
Back in Quito after a couple of nights in Otavalo, I had two nights
to wait for my flight to Caracas. My departure from Quito was uneventful
and by midday I was soaring through clear skies high above Colombia.
The lush green valleys seemed to extend for vast distances in the very
clear air and it looked like a very pretty part of the world. Part of
me was quietly pleased to be hopping over Colombia, undoubtedly the
least safe country in South America, and part of me was sad to be missing
out on his infrequently visited area which always seems to be enjoyed
greatly by those who venture there.
I spent couple of hours in transit at the airport in Bogotá before continuing
on another Avianca flight to Caracas, Venezuela. By the time I arrived
in Caracas it was dark but still very warm and humid. Outside the airport
I could smell the warm blue Caribbean Sea but alas, wouldn't get any
closer to it. After bus and taxi rides I arrived at my hotel, by far
the most expensive of my South American travels.
Over the next three days I did a lot of wandering around the streets
of Caracas and saw much of the central city areas. It's a modern city
by South American standards with a good metro system and plenty of glass
towers. There are a few remnants of the old colonial town but but they're
meager compared to most other cities on the continent. Venezuela is
a major oil and exporter and although much of the wealth has probably
been squandered you can see where some of the money has been spent like
in the cool Museo de Arte Conteporaneo which had a lot of Picasso stuff.
When the time finally came to leave Caracas and South America I wasn't
heartbroken. I'd had a great time en Sudamérica but it was bit
of a relief to be escaping the continent without misfortune and heading
for the relative civilization of London.
to Out of South America
© 2001 ianskipworth.com