Colombia – Bogota – Olds – Photos

Our final country saw much fewer photos taken overall – we were out to make the most of it in terms of meeting people and seeing places and for whatever reason that led to less photos. That said, beyond the image below you’ll still see a good selection of snaps from Bogota, which is a lovely city. Enjoy!

Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 414-416 – Colombia – Bogota

At around 4am we arrived at Ibague where we were to alight and hop on to a mini-bus for the final 4 hours to Bogota – again, without Jason and Marjorie’s help I cannot be sure we would have been awake enough or informed enough to make this transition. As we were entering the city they had the bus driver pull over and drop them off early – we hurriedly said our goodbyes and thanked them for all their help and patience across the epic journey.

They’re a reminder of the many people on the trip that we enjoyed time with but will never see again. In this, the communication age, it’s so much simpler to connect and retain links with people you meet but that’s still not always an option – but more importantly not always necessary either. Sometimes it’s important just to live in the moment and accept that the fact that your time together is this and this only just means that you should enjoy it to its fullest and cherish the memory.

If only my drink-addled lifestyle allowed me to retain more than sketchy intermittent details I’d be able to subscribe to the latter part of that much better.

We reached Bogota and hopped into a taxi who proceeded to take us on a merry dance through the city hunting down the hostel we’d pre-booked during our curry in Quito. Eventually we found it but on arrival were informed that they were full but that they had an overflow place a short jaunt away.

When something like this happens you naturally feel a little trepidation as you could be being shipped off to any old dive that’s nothing like the setup you bought into but we were exhausted and extremely happy to find that the overflow place was lovely. Conscious that we were on our last few weeks now we had a quick sort-out and headed out to see what Colombia’s capital city had to offer.

We grabbed some fruit from a street vendor then a coffee, a naff sandwich and a tasty muffin from another en route to the Museo Del Oro [Gold Museum]. While not the most photo-centric museum we enjoyed the place – it houses a vast collection of pre-Hispanic artefacts from all over Colombia. Our favourite piece was Batman – probably for no other reason than the fact that it was called Batman.

Despite our best efforts the toll of the long journey and our bold effort at doing something productive that day had taken its toll. We grabbed some groceries to smash together some butties back at the hostel – and of course the requisite selection of local beers – and retired for the evening, watching Terminator 3 in Spanish until I eventually fell asleep.

The next day we went out for breakfast and met Dan & Georgie from the UK who were on their last day in Bogota. We instantly fell in love [well, at the very least got on like a house on fire] and decided that we’d join them on a planned walking tour to take in the city’s major sites. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if ever you visit a city take advantage of the walking tours on offer. They’re the perfect way to get your bearings, immerse yourself in the city, gain some cultural background and see many of the major sights.

That said we spent most of this one chatting to each other – sometimes you’re just lucky enough to meet people that you instantly connect with – this is almost certainly the single best thing about travelling for me. You’re exposed to the opportunity to make these instant, often-fleeting, incredibly wonderful and fulfilling connections / relationships much more often than in any other context I’ve experienced and this is something I’m very aware of that I enjoy. I should probably pay attention to this more and indulge this facet of my character more often.

When the tour was over we set out for a good lunch of local delicacies – though to this day I couldn’t tell you what said meal involved. After a pleasant morning the weather then turned so we were forced to locate a place of comfort to wait out the afternoon. Shining like a beacon in the pending darkness of the rain-heavy clouds we found the phenomenal BBC – Bogota Beer Company!

Hosting an array of their own craft beers we took it upon ourselves to embrace the delicacies on offer – we smashed pitcher after pitcher after pitcher as we chatted away like we’d been friends for life.

As this was their last night they’d booked a swish hotel to relax and indulge for the evening…but then we were having such a good time…surely they could have dinner with us? Maybe another drink? Sure why the hell not! This was the pattern for the rest of the day into evening into night as we reluctantly dragged ourselves away from the BBC and on to Yum Yum for sandwiches and Mojitos before visiting a Jazz club. During the course of our conversations I found out that Dan had met Dave Grohl – TWICE. His position as a personal hero was already set but only further cemented by this revelation.

We finally returned late to the hostel and reluctantly said our goodbyes after an immense but all-to-brief day together as they made their way to make the drunken most of their swish digs before their flight home the next morning.

It was also our last night in Bogota so the next morning after a lot of being messed about we were helped by the Chocolate Hostel to secure onward bus tickets to Medellin. With this secured for that night we set out to see a selection of the museums and exhibitions that the city had to offer.

We visited the Fernando Botero gallery first – he’s pretty much got a foothold in every major city in South America, famed for his large, exaggerated characters in both sculptures and paintings. Bogota has a significant array of his works and he is pretty prolific in general. It’s all good stuff – for me the whole trip was an education in the arts and it’s nice to be able to recognise works now albeit safe in the knowledge that I remain a complete philistine.

We caught an exhibition by the photographer Wolfgang Tillmans in the Museo de Arte del Banco de la República which we really enjoyed before making our way to the Police Museum. It should come as no surprise that the police in Colombia had quite a lot to do in the seventies and eighties with the trafficking of narcotics to the US being the countries chief export at the time and the so called war on drugs leaving the nation with an image that would entice few travellers – a reputation that they’re still struggling to shake off even now. They even had a helmet from West Yorkshire Police in and amongst the museums international section – quite the varied exhibition.

We grabbed some food then set back through the throngs of people amassing despite the torrential rain for the Xmas lights and fireworks – which we managed to catch prior to our taxi from the hostel after we’d hastily blasted our soaking clothes in the drier.

The bus station proved awkward [I’m reliably informed by my notes, though I have no recollection as to why] and after eventually catching our bus we endured a terrible overnight journey with almost no sleep whatsoever.

Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 412-413 – Ecuador – Quito & Bus to Bogota

It was time to depart the Galapagos Islands.

After a breath-taking series of adventures in the remote archipelago little did we know we were about to embark upon our longest journey of the whole trip.

After a quick breakfast we were shuttled to the airport where to our dismay we were met with horrendous queues. They’re such a soul-sapping way to spend your time but often unavoidable. It was getting a little touch and go but we finally made our flight and once aboard it was an easy transfer to Quito.

Conscious that we were only a few weeks away from our return home we elected to sacrifice Ecuador in favour of a decent galavant around some key spots in Colombia – this meant that as soon as we left the airport we hopped in a taxi over to Ruta De Americas hoping to book a transfer that evening. Initially it look to all the world like the place was closing up but a short conversation later and were on a last-minute bus to Ibague, Colombia within a few hours. From there we knew we could catch a short further bus to Bogota – by the time we reached there however we would have effectively been transferring for the best part of 48 hours!

We left our bags and tootled into Quito quickly for some tasty Tandoori before returning to settle in to the back seats of the bus. We made the acquaintance of a fellow traveller Simon whom I think was from Oz, a South American couple Jason and Marjorie and a somewhat ill-prepared Christian Missionary called Thomas. Eventually, despite the Ecuadorian road maintenance authorities’ best efforts, we fell asleep.

We awoke at ludicrous o’clock in the morning to find ourselves at an extremely disorganised border crossing. If it hadn’t been for the incredibly kind Jason & Marjorie I’m pretty confident my sleep-addled self would have wandered aimlessly down what at the time looked like a perfectly reasonable road and become an illegal immigrant / cartel food.

In a rare quirk of fate we found ourselves with dollars to exchange at a somewhat spectacular rate – I can’t remember precisely what it was but by this time we were much more awake and conscious that we had no more need for them so we sorted ourselves out and proceeding, again with the assistance of Jason and Marjorie, through our final border crossing of our journey.

Legally in Colombia it was back on the bus for some sleep before waking to a checkpoint. Confusion ensued amidst passengers and as we watched from on board at first and eventually from around the bus something like 20 oddly shaped, black wrap covered packages were removed from the luggage hold of our coach and thrown into the back of a police pickup truck. While grumbly from a far from perfect transfer so far [and little to no information throughout] it was pretty obvious when faced with this situation that now was not the time to ask questions. Within 2 hours – and constantly fearing the bus would depart at any moment, so fearful of any attempted wander save for the brave few of us that trekked to a nearby shop for sodas and crisps – we were back underway.

When the bus driver decided to ignore any need for us to eat breakfast we collectively assumed the mornings’ events had left him attempting to make up lost time at our expense – this does wonders for your mood. For his trouble we were all treated to an hour long traffic jam and thus by the time we reached a late lunch stop we were in frankly shitty moods and very hungry.

Jason and Marjorie again helped us make sense of the mechanics of our latest food acquisition challenge – and please remember here that we’d covered most of the continent by this point and managed perfectly well, so were pretty upset by the odd approaches Colombian road cafes took to food. We bumped into Thomas, who’d given up trying to share religious magazines with us by this point, and it turns out he’d not bothered to bring / acquire any currency and so was facing the prospect of continuing without eating. Instinctively you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some clever ruse to attempt to prey upon the better nature of others for a free meal but you only needed to spend a few minutes with the chap to realise he was about as sharp as a marble. He still had dollars from Ecuador so I offered him a generous swap and found myself again with currency I’d just gotten rid of.

An uneventful long journey followed, reaching Cali by 9pm but not allowed to stop for food until 11pm – a fact that served only to further degrade my patience and mood. We dined again with Jason and Marjorie who were lovely and easily the high point in an otherwise pretty poor slog of a journey. To be fair the distance or time aboard would have been far, far easier and more comfortable with somewhat more regular breaks – I’d have rather endured 8 more hours if that had meant a short break every 4-6.

The comedy highlight was the slow but consistent breaking of Thomas. You see Thomas had boarded the transfer blissfully unaware of the journey time (how?!?), ignorant of the need for Colombian Pesos, and – here’s the best part – he wasn’t even stopping in Colombia. He’d booked the journey all the way through to Venezuala – to this day, given the state he was in by the time we left the next morning, I cannot be sure he survived the ordeal.

Thoughts of a Flowertot…Ecuador – Galapagos (with Compact Camera Snaps)

(Part of a series of articles by Fi trawling the archives for photos taken on the tiny compact camera way back when).

I was tired from travel but had also learned to not get too excited about the hyped up experiences you can ‘enjoy’ while travelling – thankfully Galapagos far exceeded my expectations.

In my personal opinion, if given the choice of Machu Picchu or Galapagos, the islands would win hands down. That’s not wanting to take anything away from the architectural delight of Machu but it’s not going anywhere. The Galapagos islands are a set of volcanoes that are constantly changing and due to tectonic plate movements could eventually disappear into the ocean. Tourism is also sadly changing the islands, so morally you could question visiting but as the majority of islands can only be visited with a guide, the best advice is to make sure you choose a reputable company that won’t let its guests trample off the paths, over nests or too close to the animals.

Similar advice would got to diving, choose a reputable company. Sadly we did not, and went on to experience the worst dive of my life. We chose a boat that would take us to Plaza and then on to Gordon Rocks, an extinct volcanic crater with pinnacles often referred to as the washing machine due to its strong currents and surge, the main draw is that it brings in the hammerheads and we were excited at the prospect. From start to finish it was a catalogue of errors, no safety checks, no guidance, the group was split each time and during the Gordon Rock dive the currents were so strong that we were signalled to pull ourselves along the rocky crater edge by hand..I cringe at the memory of Paul holding me by my arm as my legs were being pulled towards the surface and the rocks I was holding onto with my other hand were breaking and washing away behind me..one of the girls regulators wasn’t working so we had no idea how much air she had left and the dive ended with us being whipped up by the current. Not enjoyable, not safe and no sharks ( I know you can’t book that aspect but you do pay for safe guidance!) We shared the trip with a couple of experienced dive instructors who were visiting the islands who were equally horrified by the standard of dive. Do your homework boys and girls, we later found that far too many unscrupulous dive shops exist in the Galapagos!

We did however get lucky with our choice of boat for the 5 day catamaran tour around some of the islands. With a group of 10/12 passengers we were lucky that everyone got on fabulously throughout, this was no doubt oiled by all of the astounding sights that we were to share, and of course the boozey evenings!

Before heading out on the catamaran trip we took a ferry across from Santa Cruz to Isabela, the large seahorse shaped island formed by the joining of 6 or 7 volcanos. Staying a few nights gave us the chance to visit Sierra Negra with a hike to its giant caldera and see lava tubes and colourful craters and also fit in las tintoreras an island absolutely covered with sea lions and marine iguanas, so many oblivious and chilled iguanas that you try to step across a path of maybe 50/60 grouped together and non of them move! Reef sharks and sea turles bask in the surrounding marine pools and we even saw penguins 🙂 With a second stroke of bad luck, our underwater camera died here just after swimming with sea lions, One SLR left and many more islands to visit!

Ecuador – Galapagos – Santa Cruz – Fi – Photos

Santa Cruz – within minutes of arriving we had seen a ton of marine iguanas and frigates. In between arranging trips to other islands we managed to visit Tortuga Bay (we saw millions more iguanas, pelicans, blue herons, Galapagos crabs and probably many more animals I would be oblivious to), the Lava tunnels and tortoise reserve where my SLR finally died boooo – of all the places to be without my own camera!

Ecuador – Galapagos – Santa Cruz – Olds – Photos

It’s nice to be finally getting around to publishing these snaps – the photos I took while on the Galapagos Islands are some of the ones I’m most proud of so it’s nice for them to see the light of day, albeit on this obscure corner of the internet. A number of photos are coming from the islands that we visited but this first pair cover our base for the majority of our time amidst the isles – Santa Cruz. I hope you like ’em.

Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 411 – Ecuador – Galapagos – Puerto Ayora – Part 3

The next morning we awoke back at Porta Ayora, our central hub for the whole Galapagos experience and where the majority of our luggage had resided while we roamed the high seas. We said our goodbyes to the crew and all took off together to the last stop on the official tour – the Charles Darwin Centre.

Those with better memories will recall from a few entries ago that Fi and I had already had the pleasure and were not especially impressed overall but the camaraderie of the group meant we stuck around and to be fair Daniel’s knowledge and approach shone new light on the place.

As we left the centre many of the group went their separate ways – some desperate for some down-time, others set for further adventures elsewhere. Ubay, Kristel and Maren remained and we decided coffee and cake was the order of the morning. We arranged to meet in the evening and wandered back to Joybe tours. I can’t quite remember what we’d originally had planned for the afternoon but we negotiated to exchange it for an Airport Transfer the next day and made our way back the hostel.

We chilled out for the afternoon, pottering about making the notes I’m attempting to write up now and caught up with Dennis who was still sharing our dorm. The three of us joined our guide Danny, Maren, Kristel and a few new faces for evening drinks and food at our old haunt Café Hernan before collective exhaustion got the better of us and we wandered back to the hostel while Dennis regaled us with tales of his love affair with good wine.

Ecuador – Galapagos – Floreana, Rabida & Isabela – Fi – Photos

Rabida and Floreana were visited as part of our 5 day catamaran trip. Rabida, diversley beautiful with jagged volcanic sculpures and deep iron red sands. It was very rugged and atmospheric with starfish and frisky crabs littering the red beach. From memory, poor memory that is, I think we went snorkelling on the coast here and saw a lost baby penguin scooting about! Floreana, sadly I can remember less about, with exception of the 200 year old post barrel. Travellers leave stampless postcards and, if you see a card with an address near to your home you take it back with you to either post locally or hand deliver. At this point my best friend Abbie had just had her first son Jack so I popped a card in the box and sure enough by the time I reached home so had the card.

Ecuador – Galapagos – Rabida y Cerro Dragon – Olds – Photos

Last but by no means least were the islands of Rabida y Cerro Dragon – lots of airborne antics amidst some colourful land-dwellers to round off the island tour nicely.

Excerpt from the Journal of Olds – Day 410 – Ecuador – Galapagos – Island Tour – Part 4 – Rabida y Cerro Dragon

The next day was our last on the tour-proper and despite it having been amazing up to this point we were in for a real treat. We awoke next to Rabida and were soon on its red shores on a stroll amidst a wealth of wildlife. Cacti specked the landscape while birds dropped in, lizards slithered by and crabs hustled this way and that.

All the while we were enlightened by facts, figures and tales by our guide Daniel, augmenting the experience with context for each sight and scene. Before long my day’s fascination took hold – there’s nothing quite like watching Blue-Footed Boobies fish. They cruise over the coastline watching for movement just below the waves and when they spot an opportunity they pull their wings in and plunge like missiles into the water at immense speed. I became obsessed with this, tuning my camera as best I could in an attempt to capture something of this brutal spectacle.

Before long I was dragged away from my revelry back to the boat for another bout of snorkelling. This time we were to swim alongside a coastal cliff – before long we realised we were in for a treat from above and below.

Probably the single best snorkelling experience I’ve ever had, we were treated to Manta Rays and Turtles below. At a shout from someone else in the group I looked up to see a penguin swim right on past my mask! A little further in we were soon amidst a huge shoal of silver fish, moving in perfect harmony as almost an entity in itself. Unbeknownst to me this meant I was in for an even more spectacular event – within moments it was dinner time for the very birds I’d been watching dive-bomb on land! From above water we could see them in action, the familiar arrow-head dives as they attempted to snatch their food. As I gazed upwards I saw one particularly close Blue-Footed Booby shape to descend and managed to duck below the surface in time to see it penetrate the waves and the shoal in a glorious flurry of activity – I had a smile a mile wide and it only served to heighten my fascination with them.

On our journey back to the Zodiac we were accompanied by a curious Sea Lion, gracefully gliding, circling, swooping and spinning by the group which topped off the jaunt nicely.

It was back to the catamaran for some relaxation, then some lunch, then some more relaxation. These periods of downtime are essential to help refresh yourself for the next adventure. For us this was to be Cerro Dragon.

Here we took a walk amidst the homes of Marine and Land Iguanas – the black / red / green aquatic algae-munchers and the brilliant yellow land dwellers. For me they exude something unlike any other animal – their vibrant colours combined with their unwavering, piercing stare make them the perfect subject for a budding camera enthusiast. We were given somewhat free reign to roam and after a scoot back down towards the drop-off point in the hope that my earlier observations remained true I found my new favourite airborne friends – the Blue-Footed Boobies – up to their old tricks feasting on the local fish. As our last stop it felt like the perfect way to finish and I probably dropped another hundred rapid-fire photos in an attempt to grab a handful that would serve to highlight their majesty.

We returned to the boat and enjoyed our last night together despite the temperature drop, with the evening’s events stationed indoors, much beer and exchanging of details, all supplemented by another fine feast. Eventually we all retired to our cabins, collectively glowing as a wonderful trip drew to a close.