Saturday, December 29, 2007


Another fail in our continued search for the perfect Caribbean beach. When the Lonely Planet describes somewhere as a laid-back, quiet fishing village, you can be pretty sure it will be brimming with overly boisterous tourists from all over the world, being loud and generally creating an atmosphere that is anything but laid-back and quiet. Taganga’s beach was barely visible under the piles of holidaymaking flesh, and there was a serious shortage of beds in the town, even though the hotels outnumbered the houses. After a worrying and lengthy search, we found a place to stay and spent the next few days negotiating for towel space on the pebbly beach. The sunsets were spectacular.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Creatures in the Park

Nuclear squirrel

Pretty much every South American city, town and village has a park at the centre of it. Cartagena's main square is full of exotic animals, one's that I hadn't even seen in a zoo.

I'd never seen an Iguana before, and I had no idea that they climbed trees, so finding this guy here was surprising.

The park has a couple of sloths in residence. Seeing these guys move is like watching a movie in slow motion.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!!


From the chilled hills in which Bogota sits, we rode a plane to the coast, landing in the oppressive Caribbean air of Cartagena. The thick atmosphere had a negative effect on our ability to get out of bed, and we didn’t make it up before lunchtime once…

More Colombian Christmas decoration madness

We spent most of our waking hours deflecting offers from a flurry of cocaine dealers, playing poker, all the while sweating out large proportions of body mass. Christmas day started at some point in the afternoon, we had lunch in a seafood restaurant, which confused the English among us but was nice and familiar to the Australians, and then retired to the hotel to drink rum in pirate proportions and take refuge beneath ceiling fans.

This pattern continued for a few days, with occasional late afternoon outings to the beach (or, in one bizarre case, McDonalds) and the odd visit to one of Cartagena’s many overpriced eateries. Cartagena is not a particularly attractive city, but the incredibly humid atmosphere makes it hard to maintain a normal sleeping pattern, and when you wake up everyday at around one, it is hard to organise anything at all, so by default, we stayed in the city for much longer than anyone normally would.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Botero Museum

These guys are a constant worry here. This painting is The Thief.

This is a city we recently visited, Popayan.

Angie getting silly with Miro

Thursday, December 20, 2007


The nation's capital

Santa relaxes with a cigarette after a hard day's work

The main square

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Of all the towns we’ve visited so far, Neiva regarded us as the two strangest beings ever to grace it’s streets. Being from the Anglo-Celtic stock that we are, we’re used to getting a few curious stares, but Colombians are generally very polite and stop gawking as soon as they see you looking back at them. The folks of Neiva were different though- regardless of whether or not we were looking at them,they openly stared and even pointed at us as we walked around their sweltering little city, feeling evermore like four-headed aliens among an increasingly fascinated population of one-heads.

To top it all off, this is how they serve a glass of water, and they put grated cheese all over Angie's fruit salad. A strange place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Ride in the Back of a Police Car

Leaving San Agustin starts with a minibus to the next town where there is a bus station. What started as a fabulous piece of luck with us finding a minibus leaving straight away (they only leave when they fill up) turned typically South American when the bus broke down in the middle of nowhere. The driver graciously only charged us half price, seeing as he’d got us halfway, but we were left with the problem of getting to the bus station. Luckily, the highway police arrived on the scene and gave us a lift in the back of their ute.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Statues of San Agustin

Early baseball player

Behind these figures there is a tomb (which has been excavated)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

San Agustin

Our Tepee

San Agustin is a small town in an area inhabited by a mysterious collection of stone statues left by an even more mysterious civilisation. We arrived via an inordinately bumpy road- our seats performed distressing impressions of catapults as the bus stumbled for five hours in first gear down the cratered mountain pass. The last leg was covered in the back of a ute, and I discovered that I have developed a slight phobia of this kind of travel, undoubtedly a result of my birthday mishap in the Ecuadorian milk truck.

We made it into town without falling out and found our hotel at the top of a murderously steep mud hill. It was a simply horrible journey that managed to encompass the worst aspects of travel, but, as is usual in Colombia, the scenery was fantastic. Retiring to our tepee we put the ordeals of the day behind us.

The stone statues that draw people to the area are leftovers from an unknown civilisation that had disappeared by the fourteenth century. We spent a couple of days exploring sites and parks, looking at some pretty fierce rock guardians keeping watch over excavated burial sites. The nice thing was that the majority of the sculptures were outside, rather than in museums, which actually made them much more interesting to eyeball.

The park that houses most of the statues is heavily patrolled by heavily armed soldiers.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Another long bus ride took us to Popayan, which the guidebook interestingly describes as a safe place centred in a hive of guerrilla activity. Night busses are a no-no around here, as they often get hijacked and the occupants liberated of all their earthly possessions (the ones they carry on the bus, anyway).

After nine-months of getting into taxis, and occasionally being ripped off by the driver, I turned the tables on this, our halfway point, and ripped myself off. Here's how: The Colombian peso is an outrageously large currency- every Australian dollar is worth 1800 pesos (and falling)- so it's a little tricky to deal with all the massive numbers that get thrown your way. Compounding the problem is the fact that the 1000 peso note is the same colour scheme as the 10 000 peso note, so of course in all the darkeness of arriving at night and confusion of huge numbers and similar looking bills, I inadvertently substituted a 10 000 note for a 1000 note and ended up paying 12 000 pesos for a 3000 peso ride (a price which was already a bit steep anyway).

Christmas-themed illumination is a serious business in Colombia- at this time of year, every town decks out their plaza with thousands of watts of coloured lights and, in the case of Popayan, large glowing fruits. If I were brave or stupid enough to take out the tripod I'm sure there'd be some spectacular shots of beautifully decorated town squares, but Iíd like to keep a hold of my gear for a little longer.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Halfway

Today marks the halfway point of our trip. Nine months have passed since we landed in Chile, and we're planning on landing back in Sydney another nine months from now. To say we're behind schedule is an understatement of a immense proportions. Originally, our loose itinerary had us looking for work in London at this point of the journey. Ewwwww.

To celebrate the occasion, I have finally got my photoblog online. I've been working on it intermittently for the past few months, and now it's pretty much ready to be seen.

There's a link on the sidebar of this blog to get you there once this post goes to the archives. The photoblog probably won't be updated as regularly, but it's a nice way to look at photos anyway. Let me know what you think!

We Arrive in Colombia

Another border crossing, with a myriad of bus changes and the usual confusion that arises when arriving in a new country. South American borders are rarely a straightforward affair, with immigration offices usually unmarked and often a good walk between one country’s exit and the other’s entry. After a bit of wandering, which never feels like a bit of wandering when you’re carrying around 30kg of belongings, we found the various offices and got our stamps for Colombia. After hopping between Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador for so long, it felt fresh to be in a new country. Another bus (to the bus station) and then another bus after that, and we were on our way into Colombia.

The scene at The Koala Inn, Pasto

By nine o’clock, we were in the non-descript town of Pasto that had completely shut down for the night, and we wandered the streets, very warily (the Lonely Planet infuses all who read the Colombia chapter with an amazing amount of paranoia) looking for food. Eventually we found a place that claimed to be Mexican, but served only drinks and pizzas. The menu also advertised sandwiches (Cuban sandwiches), one of which Angie ordered, but my instructions on how to make a pizza leaving off the chicken and ham pushed the waiter’s order taking abilities past their maximum capacity, and poor Angie didn’t eat that night, save for a packet of chips bought on the way home.

Feeling we had exhausted most of the possibilities of Pasto, we decided to push on the next day. We did manage to find a good breakfast, which was a perfect way to celebrate our nine-month anniversary of travel and the halfway point of our trip. After a large meal involving some delicious Colombian coffee, we checked out one of the town squares, an interestingly sloped and sliced expanse of paving bricks. It was an interesting place, but the old man who walked by muttering ‘be careful, be careful’ put us on edge and we got out of there after a couple of photos.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hotel Rincon de Belen

The curtain and wall.

The view

The TV

This is something I'd never come across until I got to South America. It's an electric shower. Basically, cold water runs into the showerhead, and the showerhead heats it quickly so that by the time it falls out, the water should be nice and warm. Sometimes they work, most of the time all you get is a frustrating dribble of luke-warm water (the more water you try to push through, the less it is heated). Also of interest in this example is the bare electric wire connection providing 220 volts of electricity to the unit.

The lobby.